Although they are statistically among the safest on the road, the number of older drivers is increasing dramatically — and with it, that group's numbers of injuries and deaths. Because of this, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday announced a new five-year strategic plan to improve safety for elderly drivers and passengers.
Since 2003, the population of older adults, defined as age 65 and older, has increased by 20 percent and the number of licensed older drivers increased by 21 percent to 35 million in 2012, according to NHTSA. Last year, NHTSA reported that 5,560 people older than 65 died and 214,000 were injured in car crashes, a 3 percent spike in fatalities and a 16 percent spike in injuries compared with 2011. That's in addition to an increased risk of death or serious injury in even low-severity crashes, NHTSA stated.
In response to these figures, NHTSA's strategic plan will focus on three key areas:
"NHTSA's Older Driver Highway Safety Program Guidelines are based on best practices around the country and include countermeasures that can be implemented to ensure the safety of older drivers, including at-risk drivers," the agency said in a statement. "The guidelines encourage state highway safety offices to work closely with driver license officials, state departments of transportation, medical providers and aging services providers, among others."