NHTSA contemplates the safety of families and elderly drivers

The concept of safety is relative to any given situation. Individuals do not need to be protected in the same ways if they are at risk for drowning in the ocean as they would be if they were at risk of drowning in a swimming pool. Certainly, both situations require that concerned persons be educated about first aid and watch vulnerable swimmers closely. However, the unique environments of a deep swimming pool and an ocean with six foot waves require different safety-conscious training for affected lifeguards.

Similarly, different populations require varied safety focuses when it comes to the prevention of motor vehicle accidents and related injury in the event that accidents do occur. For example, infants require specialized seats in order to be protected from injury, while handicapped persons may require a host of vehicular modifications in order to keep them safe behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is taking some of the unique safety concerns affecting both families and elderly drivers into consideration. In particular, it is contemplating the creation of specialized safety ratings for vehicles based on the populations seeking to drive them.

For example, when drivers become elderly, a great many suffer from decreased eyesight capacity. Therefore, a vehicle that boasts a highly visible dashboard with bold fonts and numbers that are easy to read may receive a higher safety rating for elderly drivers specifically than a vehicle sporting a stylish but harder to read dash would. Additionally, family-related safety ratings would focus greatly on the safety of a given vehicle's back seat.

The NHTSA would need approximately three years to roll out these new safety focus overhauls. However, safety ratings which better inform vulnerable populations may be well worth the wait and effort required.

Source: The Washington Post, "NHTSA Proposes Older Driver, Family Vehicle Safety Ratings," Suzanne Kane, Apr. 9, 2013

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