The American International Auto Dealers Association (AIADA) has indicated that traffic safety of aging Americans is fast becoming one of the greatest public safety concerns of government, auto manufacturers, and insurance companies.
“According to federal data, the number of Americans over the age of 70 involved in fatal traffic accidents increased by 33 percent from 1989 to 1999, even as traffic fatalities overall declined by nine percent during that period,” said the bulletin.
“By the end of the decade, the largest generation of Americans — the Baby Boomers — will begin entering retirement age,” explained AIADA chairman Buzz Rodland. “It’s a concern because there appears to be a direct relationship between age and the risk of traffic fatality.”
The AIADA noted that “a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers over the age of 65 are 1.78 times more likely to die in a car crash than drivers 55 and 64 years old. Drivers over 75 are 2.59 times more at risk; for drivers over the age of 85, the risk is 3.72 times as high.”
The association also indicated that “auto manufacturers are studying ways to make driving safer for drivers whose vision, reaction time and muscle dexterity begin to deteriorate with age. One emerging technology uses cameras and computer systems to warn the driver when it detects inadvertent lane departure. Sophisticated braking systems that slow down a car when on-board computers determine a crash is imminent are also being developed. And restraint systems that better prepare a motorist for a crash are now being tested in Europe.”
Proposals have been made to come to grips with the problem. These include more frequent testing for drivers’ license renewals and ways to make roads — particularly intersections — safer. “More than half of all fatal accidents among drivers over 80 occur at intersections, compared to 25 percent among drivers under 50, according to federal reports,” said the AIADA.
Rodland advised older drivers: “As reaction time deteriorates, it’s a good idea to lower driving speeds and increase following distances. Avoid rush hour and heavily congested roads if at all possible. It’s also important that older drivers and their families openly discuss safety issues.”
The AIADA has assembled a list of “Safety Tips for Older Drivers,” available at www.aiada.org/tips4olderdrivers.
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