The upcoming explosion of older drivers on the road may be fueling the change proposed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The new rating, referred to as a silver rating on the NHTSA website, would apply to a significant percentage of drivers. The AARP reports that there will be 20 million more drivers over the age of 65 on the roads in 2030 than there are now. By 2025, 20 percent of all drivers will be in that age group. Examining the crash safety of a new car specifically for this group could impact countless lives.
The rating itself would take into account the average driver over the age of 65. Elderly drivers suffer elevated fatality rates in serious accidents. In that age group, a crash victim will likely sustain greater damage than a younger driver experiencing the same crash force. A vehicle’s ability to dissipate that force without transferring it to the occupant could make for a better silver rating.
The NHTSA also suggested that certain other safety features might be beneficial for older drivers. The specific examples given were inflatable seat belts and devices designed to stop a driver from pressing the wrong pedal at low speeds.
Family safety ratings would help take into account a new vehicle’s ability to protect rear-seat passengers. While the existing safety rating system accounts for many aspects of vehicle safety, the additional ratings would provide additional information for families with young children. Most new vehicles are built to accommodate child safety seats, but that does little to explain the difference between one vehicle and next in terms of rear-seat passengers surviving a crash.
Source: The Washington Post, “NHTSA Proposes Older Driver, Family Vehicle Safety Ratings,” by Suzanne Kane, 9 April 2013