Safety potential of crash avoidance features, improved headlights, and V2V-enhanced technologies for older drivers
Introduction: Age-related changes and frailty are among the reasons that older drivers are overrepresented in certain crash types. Vehicle safety features that address these crash types may therefore deliver greater safety benefits for older drivers than for other age groups even though they are designed for the general population. Methods: U.S. crash data from 2016–2019 were used to estimate the proportion of crash involvements and fatal and nonfatal driver injuries for older (70 years old and above) and middle-aged (35–54 years old) drivers from crash scenarios to which current crash avoidance features, improved headlights, and forthcoming vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V)-connected intersection-assistance features could be relevant. Risk ratios were then calculated to determine the relative benefits of each technology for older drivers compared with middle-aged drivers. Results: Combined, these technologies were potentially relevant to 65% of older driver and 72% of middle-aged driver fatalities during the study period. Intersection assistance features showed the most promise for older drivers. Such features were potentially relevant to 32% of older driver crash involvements, 38% of older driver injuries, and 31% of older driver fatalities. Intersection assistance features were significantly more likely to be relevant to older driver deaths than middle-aged driver fatalities (RR, 3.52; 95 % CI, 3.33–3.71). Conclusions: Vehicle technologies have the potential to substantially reduce or mitigate crashes and the injuries that they cause for everyone, but the potential safety impact of each technology varies by driver age because different age groups are over- or underrepresented in specific crash scenarios. Practical applications: With the older driver population growing, these findings underscore the need to bring intersection assistance technologies to the consumer market. At the same time, everyone stands to benefit from currently available crash avoidance features and improved headlights, so their use should be promoted among all drivers.