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NHTSA wants to tailor safety ratings for crashworthiness

While there is no accounting for small preferences like color or souped-up speakers, most Americans are looking for the same things when buying a new car. Chief among these is safety. It doesn't matter how cool a car looks if it doesn't protect you during a crash.

Auto manufacturers and government regulators put new vehicles through rigorous safety testing. But since we are not all the same size and shape, we might not all fare the same in an auto accident. For instance, very young children and the elderly have different safety needs than average adults in relatively good physical condition. For this reason, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to add two more categories to its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).

The NHTSA's proposed "silver" rating would help older drivers choose a car based on their unique safety needs. Approximately 16 percent of U.S. drivers today are 65 or older. By the year 2025, that figure is expected to rise to 20 percent. Elderly drivers are less able to withstand crash forces than younger drivers are, which is why older drivers have the highest death rate in serious accidents.

Unfortunately, there may not be any uniform safety features that would apply to all older drivers equally. That's why the future of safety features for elderly drivers might be options that compensate for specific health problems, such as arthritis.

 

The NHTSA also wants to add a "families" rating to its assessment program. The ratings would largely be based on how well a given vehicle protects back-seat passengers in addition to those riding in the front. Because children most often ride in the back of a vehicle, this new safety rating could be a huge selling point for parents shopping for a new family vehicle.

As long as there are cars, there will likely be car crashes. Thankfully, though, targeted efforts by the NHTSA and others have led to new technologies which have made crashes not only more avoidable, but also more survivable.

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

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