Next: Star ratings for grandpa

2013-04-05 17:43

WASHINGTON – US federal safety regulators are considering vehicle safety ratings to help older drivers and families choose a new car.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Detroit News reports, said it was planning to update its New Car Assessment Programme and was considering a "silver" rating to assess the protection of older occupants.

The NHTSA was also considering a "family" rating of protection for rear-seat passengers, including children. Both ratings would be in addition to NHTSA's five-star assessment scheme.


The NHTSA said: "As the US population shifts in coming years, more drivers and passengers will be 65 and older."

Older people were, it believed, less able to withstand crash forces than younger people: "For example, inflatable seat belts or technologies that help prevent low-speed pedal misapplication may have potential benefits for older occupants."

Buyers could use the family rating to compare which cars best protected rear passengers.

"The agency is aware that consumers often wish to know which vehicles are the safest for children. Providing a crash-worthiness rating for vehicles based on protection for front adult occupants and rear child occupants would support consumer interests," the NHTSA added.

NHTSA administrator David Strickland thought automakers would want to reach out to families and senior citizens: "These are all things we can highlight for people to make better buying decisions."
He said that growing numbers of older people "are buying cars… they are driving longer, they are more active… They probably have more resources to, frankly, buy more-expensive cars."


Strickland said an overhaul for the ratings could take three or four years.

The NHTSA was also considering adding the results of crash tests using a small adult in the rear seat to its frontal crash rating.

"An expansion of this concept would be to explore the potential for adding advanced child dummies to one or more of its crash-worthiness test modes to explore the feasibility of providing consumers with a 'family' star rating," the agency said.

Data obtained from its research could see the development of a six-year-old child frontal impact dummy, followed by three and 10-year-old child frontal impact dummies. It’s considering whether to include information on vehicle labels about new technologies such as blind-spot detection systems, advanced lighting, lane-departure warning systems and pedestrian safety technologies.


According to the Detroit News, by 2025, more than 20% of drivers would be older than 65; by 2030 there would be 57-million elderly drivers instead of the 32-million of 2013.

Older drivers are more likely to wear safety belts, not drink then drive or speed. Statistically, despite having fewer crashes, they are more likely to be injured or killed if they do.

Eyesight diminishes, especially at night. And some seniors have more trouble turning their necks to check traffic.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing General Motors, Toyota, VW and others, said it would work with NHTSA on the proposal.

"We welcome this notice and will have lots of constructive comments as we fully review it."