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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration targets seniors

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If you’re getting on in years and cars seem to be whizzing by so fast you forget to turn off your turn signal when you merge, don’t worry, the federal government has announced a five-year plan to help you out.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced Friday a strategic plan to improve safety for elderly drivers and passengers, even though they are statistically among the safest drivers on the road.

The government is apparently concerned about the increasing number of injuries and deaths of older drivers who still use their twenty-year-old Oldsmobiles to shop for groceries and pick up prescriptions at Wal-Mart.

The government report notes that since 2003 the population of older adults, defined as age 65 and older, has increased by 20% and that the number of licensed older drivers increased by 21% to 35 million in 2012. The NHTSA did not introduce a corresponding plan for alternative transportation to fill in for the old Oldsmobile when “older adults” need to obtain medicine and other miscellaneous items of sustenance.

Last year, NHTSA reported that 5,560 people older than 65 died and 214,000 were injured in car crashes, a 3% spike in fatalities and a 16% 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.

However, before any healthy adults over 65 toss their keys to the grandchild so he or she can do the shopping - be forewarned. For both men and women, drivers aged 16 to 19 years of age have the highest average annual crash and traffic violation rates of any other age group. It’s unclear why the NHTSA decided to go after the safest group of drivers instead.

Of course, we’re talking about the government, or more specifically the NHTSA, the NSA of DMVs, so there should be no reason for concern. It won’t cost you a dime and your privacy is a guaranteed, right. They’re just trying to help you out…out of your Oldsmobile, in a manner of speaking.

So what’s the bottom line, one might ask, especially one who is over 65 and hoping to stay out of assisted living for a couple more years.

"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.

Translated to plain English the statement reads like “we have to pass the law so that you can find out what is in it.”

Actually, the NHTSA Guidelines eventually get into specifics like “NHTSA intends to refine its systems as it continues to examine crash rates and injuries, as well as clinical and naturalistic studies of physical, cognitive and perceptual changes associated with drivers' behavior as they age."

As you can see, it's very clear. However, if you like your Olds but still haven’t got your eyes on the new guidelines, consider this NHTSA quote:

"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."

It should be mentioned in support of those who may fail to meet new NHTSA Guidelines and live a few miles or more from the nearest market and pharmacy, there are some really hot-looking 10-speed three-wheel bikes out there complete with shopping baskets.

Just be sure to buy it before you sell the Olds in case you have to bring it home and put it together.

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