Senior drivers are hip to high-tech safety features in cars and trucks, but they’re not sold on the concept of driverless vehicles, according to a nationwide survey commissioned by Munich Reinsurance America.
Approximately two out of three drivers (63 percent) over age 65 said their next vehicle will have active safety features. The most sought-after features: blind-spot detectors (51 percent of survey respondents), a backup camera (43 percent) and automated braking (31 percent).
Of the 1,001 seniors surveyed, 44 percent said they would be willing to pay more for a vehicle with active safety features if the added cost is less than $5,000.
Drivers over the age of 65 are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the United States, and are more susceptible to accidents due to age-related factors such as declining vision, decreased flexibility and slower reflexes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The agency estimates that there will be more than 40 million senior drivers on the road by 2020.
“Active vehicle safety technology has the potential to reduce crashes in any age group, but may offer specific benefits for older drivers,” said Mike Scrudato, head of the mobility domain at Munich Re, US. “For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that rear cameras had the biggest benefit for drivers age 70 and older, reducing the backup crash rate by 40 percent, compared to 15 percent for drivers younger than 70 years old.”
When asked what they believe to be the greatest benefit of active safety features for senior drivers, nearly half of the survey respondents cited improved safety (41 percent), maintaining their independence (19 percent) and reducing societal costs from accidents (13 percent).
Not Comfortable with Self-Driving Technology
While the results indicate that older drivers are comfortable with and recognize the benefits of safety technology, they still are reluctant to relinquish total control to a car’s internal systems. Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) noted that they would be somewhat or very uncomfortable riding in a fully autonomous vehicle.
The survey found that the majority of older drivers (53 percent) still would prefer to drive themselves, even if ridesharing services were available at a reasonable cost.
“Autonomous vehicle technology has the ability to transform the U.S. transportation ecosystem,” Scrudato added. “While widespread adoption may still be some years away, this technology carries a variety of opportunities and potential risk exposures that governments, regulators and the insurance industry must begin to prepare for now.”