Forbes – by Dale Buss
The coming tsunami of elderly drivers is a challenge that automakers, policy makers, insurance companies, healthcare advocates and everyone else has seen arriving for decades. But American society remains far from prepared even for mid-decade, when about one in four U.S. drivers will be 65 years of age or older.
Traffic deaths rose in the middle of the last decade thanks in part to the scourge of texting while driving. The figure declined for the last few years due to more automated safety features in cars and, last year, because of the falloff in driving amid Covid-19 lockdowns. But it isn’t hard to imagine fatalities spiking significantly in the next few years as record numbers of Americans enter the years after 65 when drivers involved in crashes, and fatalities, fare significantly worse in their ability to navigate things behind the wheel.
Families, companies and authorities have tried to stay ahead of the problem by making cars safer, establishing safety monitoring behind the wheel, making driver’s license renewals more challenging — and asking problematic seniors to hang up their car keys. Technologies including fully driverless automobiles promise advances, too, at some point.
But for now, the challenge of coping with the boom in senior drivers, in their needs and in their limitations, hasn’t been adequately met. Some experts believe automakers will have to take the lead in making big progress.
“It’s going to have to come from auto manufacturers, with the recognition that seniors are a huge part of their market,” Dustin Boutet, director of innovation consulting and the travel and hospitality lead for EPAM Continuum, a consulting firm based in Boston, told me.