Older occupants are particularly susceptible to serious injury or death in the event of a car crash due to their increased level of frailty. Levels of frailty generally begin to increase from the age of 60 to 65 years, although for some women it can be as young as 45 years.
Given the ageing of the population, the suitability of vehicles for older drivers and passengers is a particularly pertinent issue and one that provides great potential in terms of possible safety gains. The population of older people is not only increasing, but older people are also driving for longer and so have a greater exposure to the risk of a crash.
This research was concerned with developing a protocol with which to determine the relative safety and usability benefits of particular vehicles for older drivers and passengers. Some vehicle safety features are likely to be particularly effective for older occupants and these should be encouraged. Usability and accessibility are also important issues for older occupants who may not have the same level of mobility as other people.
This paper outlines the initial findings from this research and discusses the criteria that are being developed for determining the suitability of vehicles for older drivers and passengers.