The number of licensed drivers over the age of 65 is growing rapidly here in Pennsylvania and throughout the country as the baby boomers approach retirement age. According to the Associated Press, about 25 percent of today's drivers are 65 or older.
While aging does not necessarily impact one's driving skills, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently begun a five-year plan in order to improve the car accident and fatality rates pertaining to older drivers. In recent years, as the total number of fatal car accidents in the U.S. has declined, the fatality rate among older drivers has been on the rise.
Older drivers are typically more susceptible than younger drivers to suffering injuries in a car accident. As part of its five-year plan, NHTSA is considering implementing a rating system to help older consumers find cars that are designed to protect older drivers.
The "silver car" rating would identify cars that have various features and technologies that make road travel as safe as possible for older drivers.
NHTSA's plan also addresses seat belt use, because elderly people suffer even worse consequences than younger people when unbelted.
The federal agency is also asking states to consider switching to in-person driver's license renewal processes and implementing medical fitness tests as a part of these.
It is good that federal safety regulators are trying to address this issue now. Many older drivers may have medical conditions that make it unsafe for them to operate motor vehicles, and this is true of younger drivers as well. It is important that Pennsylvania residents are honest with themselves, and with their loved ones, when this is the case. In some cases, doctors and occupational therapists may be able to provide drivers with resources to mitigate some issues and make driving safer.
Source: Times-Standard, "Plan aims to keep older drivers safe on the road," Kevin Freking, Dec. 10, 2013