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Pending vehicle safety standards may better protect seniors

Auto accident attorney in Del Mar
Auto accident attorney in Del Mar

Auto accident attorney in Rancho Santa FeBy Michael Pines, Accident & Injury Prevention Expert

For years, car manufacturers have aimed to better understand the human body when it comes to protecting it in the event of a car accident. Crash test dummies helped to pave the way to better safety technology and smarter design. But even though we’ve come ages from lap belts and automatic seatbelts, seniors – who have unique problems compared to other motorists – still face an increased risk of serious injury during a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced earlier this month that it may create a “silver” rating system to help bridge this gap.

According to NBC News, car accident data shows that older drivers and passengers are more likely to sustain a fatal crash compared to other motorists. While several car manufacturers have tried to address the problem, solutions that have paved a safer ride for senior motorists are still lacking.

Ford has tried to resolve the increased chance of senior injury by introducing a rear seatbelt system that includes a special airbag that protects the chest – a common area of injury for seniors involved in car accidents.

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According to NHTSA Administrator Strickland, automakers are expected to push back on the new silver ratings system as emphasis on new vehicle technology is focused on young buyers. In recent years, we’ve seen technology like Facebook, Wi-Fi and satellite radio enter the car market scene while safety issues for seniors have fallen to the wayside.

“They’re saying nobody wants to be the car for seniors, but the baby boom is the largest generation in the history of this country,” Strickland said. “And they’re buying cars.”

Not all in the auto industry have frowned upon the proposed silver rating system. “Safety is critical to automakers and we welcome this notice,” Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Spokesman Wade Newton said in a statement to the Bloomberg news service.

SENIOR SAFETY: TIPS FOR A SAFER RIDE

Seniors need to stay proactive when it comes to car safety regardless of technology aimed to protect them. Here are the main points to remember:

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Know your health.

Talk to a doctor to ensure it is safe for you or your loved one to drive. Neck or back problems, medications, and hearing or eye sight problems can all increase your chance of getting into a car accident. Make sure your physician gives you the clear to get on the road.

Choose the right vehicle. Pick a car that has automatic transmission, power brakes and power steering. You should consider replacing a particularly old vehicle, especially if it is not equipped with these features.

Know your limits.

Freeways, traffic and stop-and-go driving can make any senior nervous especially in the face of others’ aggressive driving habits. If you feel that certain road conditions make you nervous – even if it’s is just the weather – don’t do it and find an alternate way to get around town.

Listen to your family.

Sometimes, your family knows best, especially when they are able to assess your driving objectively. If your family suggests taking a break from driving or to quit altogether, it’s a good idea to discuss the alternate options available to you. While it’s tough on the ego to recognize you may be unfit to drive, you could be saving your life!

For more information on car accident safety in San Diego, log onto

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