Active Safety Systems – We Ask A Doctor How They Might Help Older Drivers

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Active vehicle safety systems are becoming more widespread. To get more insight on how they may help older drivers we asked a specialist.

During a recent product overview session on the new 2019 Nissan Altima hosted by the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA), BestRide was given an in-depth understanding of Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 basket of safety systems. Nissan has wisely corralled all of the myriad safety systems into one simple to remember suite so customers can more easily cross-shop Nissan’s industry-leading safety products.

As it happened, Don Jaffe, an experienced Sports Car Club of America racer was also a guest that evening. In addition to being a racer, Don is also an M.D. with a specialty in on Otolaryngology / Head and Neck Surgery. We interviewed Dr. Jaffe and asked him if he could tell us how the various systems included in Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 might help keep older drivers safer. His answers were detailed and logical. Here’s what he shared.

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Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM)

The new Altima is an excellent example of a vehicle with no blind spot. It has outstanding visibility. Yet, Dr. Jaffe felt that including BSM still makes good sense. He told us, “As we age our spine isn’t as flexible as it is when we are in our youth. Many elders can’t turn their necks to look over their shoulder.” The medical term for this is cervical spondylosis and 85% of folks over age 60 suffer from it. Dr. Jaffe continued, saying, “This common issue limits one’s ability to check for a vehicle just behind and to the side of them in another lane. BSM can help in this situation as long as we don’t over-rely on it.” However, Dr. Jaffe feels that BSM is not finished evolving quite yet. He told BestRide that he thinks future systems will be better at alerting drivers to cars overtaking from behind and to the side. He also thinks that for drivers to rely completely on this technology it has to be better in heavier traffic.

Nissan parking technologies help make even the most challenging parking situations easy.

Rear Cross Traffic Alert & Rear Auto Braking

Rear Cross Traffic Alert is a system that helps drivers when backing out of a parking spot or driveway. It warns the driver if a vehicle is approaching from the side even before that vehicle can be seen from the driver’s seat. Dr. Jaffe saw the obvious value of that system for any driver, but he also spotted one area for improvement in the new Altima.

He pointed to the back seat and said, “All racers use a rear-view mirror that extends across the full length of the vehicle headliner. We need to use peripheral vision to know what is behind us at all times so that we don’t accidentally cut off a passing car heading into a corner. I’d like to see Nissan redesign the rear headrests so that they drop down out of view when not in use. The more effectively we can use our own eyes to see what’s behind us, the better.” Dr. Jaffe also likes Nissan’s rear auto braking. Rather than just providing an alert, the system actually stops the vehicle from backing into an object or person.

High Beam Assist

Automatic high beams are popular with safety groups like IIHS who award vehicles with the technology extra points when doing safety evaluations. Not only do drivers use the high beams more in vehicles with this technology, but the auto-dimming is also better at keeping oncoming drivers from being blinded. Dr. Jaffe pointed out that older drivers have more light sensitivity than do younger drivers. He commented, “Older drivers may have cataracts. When high beams hit this aged lens in the eye it can produce a star-like effect in the eyes. Anything that reduces glare is a good idea.”

Auto Braking

Forward automatic braking is now proven to be effective. Dr. Jaffe commented on this technology saying, “As we age our reaction time goes down. These systems can react faster than we can to an upcoming hazard and can be helpful to any driver.” The most expensive injury resulting from automotive crashes is whiplash. The more automakers can do to keep patients out of Dr. Jaffe’s office the better.