The Hartford, MIT List Top 10 Car Safety Technologies

The elderly may have a tougher time driving as they age, but getting behind the wheel may be safer thanks to technologies that will require them to do less of that driving themselves.

A new list from The Hartford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) highlights the top 10 car technologies that help older drivers on the road, and many of those technologies are warning and assist systems promoting safe driving and awareness.

The list, assembled by an expert group including professionals from fields including geriatrics and ergonomics, focused on useful devices that could aid mature drivers who were 50 years of age and older:

–smart headlights
–emergency response systems
–reverse-monitoring systems
–blind-spot warning systems
–lane departure warning systems
–vehicle stability control
–parking assist systems
–voice-activated systems
–crash-mitigation systems
–drowsy driver alerts

In addition to compiling the list, MIT’s AgeLab released research findings showing 65 percent of older drivers report that having the latest technologies increases their confidence.

Also, 1 in 4 older drivers say that their foremost concern is their vision during nighttime driving.

That common problem makes smart headlights one of the list’s most useful tools, according to Jodi Olshevski, a gerontologist with The Hartford. Such headlights come equipped with camera-like technology in the front of a vehicle that automatically adjusts the intensity and range of the beam based on oncoming traffic.

“It actually helps you not only see better, but it also reduces glare,” Olshevski said in a video guide released with the list.

The blind-spot warning system, which alerts motorists to any objects entering their blind spots, is especially helpful to older drivers who have reduced range of motion and reaction time, Olshevski said.

“It’s like I have a co-pilot with me,” said Joan Callahan, a new car owner who was featured in the video, about the warning system.

Callahan added that some technologies will take some getting used to, including the reverse-monitoring system that provides an in-dashboard video feed of what is behind the vehicle.

Olshevski said practice makes perfect with such technologies.

“It’s true that a lot of this technology does take some getting used to,” she said. “Once drivers get comfortable and they actually adjust their driving style to make space for these new features, it can really become second nature.

And with that comes a new level of confidence, which all of us can benefit from as we age.”

Facing Greater Risk, Older Drivers Have Insurance Decisions to Make

Coverage rates tick upward for drivers as they enter old age because older drivers present greater risk for insurers to cover.

Based on miles traveled, fatality rates rise beginning at 75 years old before seeing a significant jump after 80 years old, though “fragility begins to increase” between the ages of 60 and 64, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that, in 2009, older drivers accounted for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities, 15 percent of vehicle occupant fatalities and 19 percent of pedestrian fatalities.

But older drivers may still be able to find a cheap insurer to provide them affordable coverage.

Overall, crash rates tend to go down as drivers age. And as of August 2011, 31 states and the District of Columbia require insurance premium discounts for drivers 55 years old and over after they’ve completed eligible accident prevention courses, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Alabama just made it easier for seniors to obtain that insurance discount, too. Recent revisions to the state’s motor vehicle code reduced the number of instruction hours a driver needs to get reduced premiums from eight to six. Another change made online course participants eligible for the discount.

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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