New Ratings Needed To Protect Older Drivers: NHTSA
April 5, 2013

US To Update Vehicle-safety Ratings To Help Growing Number Of Older Drivers

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plans to change the rating system for new cars to keep pace with rapidly changing technology and to better protect older drivers.

In a Federal Register posting on Thursday, the agency said it may create a “silver” rating system to describe how well vehicles protect older occupants in crashes. It may also consider how rear-seat passengers and pedestrians cope in crashes and new test procedures for electric vehicles.

The NHTSA is seeking public input on how to best update its ratings system, and how to evaluate the safety of various new technologies and compare the features across a wide variety of vehicles.

Advancements such as blind-spot detection and automatic braking in the event of an imminent crash could help prevent accidents, the agency noted.

In addition to technology advancements, the population is aging, with more drivers 65 years and older expected to be on the roads in the years ahead.

“They´re saying nobody wants to be the car for seniors, but the baby boom is the largest generation in the history of this country,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland after a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington. “And they´re buying cars.”

Older drivers and passengers are more likely than their younger counterparts to be injured or killed in vehicle crashes, according to figures compiled by NHTSA.

In addition to its primary ratings, the agency said it is considering a "silver car" rating system to provide crash safety information for these older drivers, which could give higher scores to vehicles that use inflatable seat belts or technologies that prevent drivers from accidentally hitting the wrong pedal.

Since 1978 the federal government has employed a five-star rating system to measure vehicle safety. The system initially included only ratings for frontal crashes, but has been updated over the years to cover side-crash results and other areas.

Previous changes to the system also include the addition of rating incentives for safety technologies such as forward-collision warnings and electronic stability control.

Thursday´s public notice signals the beginning of the NHTSA´s review process. After collecting public comments, the agency will issue a draft plan and a possible proposal for some short term updates to the program.