BACKGROUND

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) mission is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce traffic-related health care and other economic costs. The agency develops, promotes, and implements effective educational, engineering, and enforcement programs directed toward ending preventable tragedies and reducing safety-related economic costs associated with vehicle use and highway travel (Statement of Work, DTNH22-99-D-15099).

NHTSA has long been involved in research efforts regarding older drivers. Over the last several years, NHTSA’s focus has shifted from all older drivers to attempts to identify those older drivers and pedestrians who are at risk. Safety is the first priority, with mobility a strong second.

In November of 1999, the Transportation Research Board held a conference (Transportation in an Aging Society: A Decade of Experience) to establish the state of knowledge concerning the transportation issues of older people and to explore how that knowledge has changed over the last decade. Participants at that conference generated a prioritized, unfiltered list of research and implementation ideas. This list included over 50 possible research topics. Many fell within the NHTSA mission, but some clearly did not, and many required a scope of effort that would be beyond the budget available for this line of research.

The Center for Applied Research was asked to use the November 1999 conference list as a starting point to generate a list of research projects that fall within NHTSA’s mission and have the greatest potential impact on safety. The ultimate goal was to formulate a strategic research plan for NHTSA’s Office of Research and Traffic Records. For planning purposes, an annual budget of about $500,000 was assumed for a seven-year time frame ($3.5M total).

The strategic research plan was to be developed through the preparation of a Literature Review, the meeting of an Expert Panel, the development of Problem Statements, and the creation of Prioritization Schemes.

The Center for Applied Research was asked to conduct the activities necessary to define and prioritize NHTSA’s future studies in this area. Toward this end, a literature review was conducted on the last 10 years’ findings. This brief overview was provided to a panel of the top experts in the field. At a meeting on November 2, 2000, the Expert Panel reviewed and evaluated potential research projects. The results of the Expert Panel were compiled, and three prioritization schemes were developed to assist NHTSA in covering the most urgent, practical and feasible projects. These activities are described in this report.