Recommended Safety Considerations for Senior Drivers

Senior DriversAccording to AAA (the Automobile Association of America), roughly ninety percent of drivers who are aged sixty-five or older have one or more health issues that affects their ability to drive safely. Despite this, only ten percent of senior drivers have vehicles that accommodate the needs that come with their health issues, or the normal conditions that come with growing older.

As an attempt to help the ever growing senior driver population find vehicles that provide both safety and comfort, the AAA has updated one of its regular features, Smart Features for Older Drivers, with expanded resources that address not only a greater number of health conditions but also provide new information about features available in current model-year cars.

Specifically, said Robert Darbelnet, AAA's president and CEO, there are smart features available on newer cars that can help older drivers and their family members all deal with the above-referenced condition, a real need, since there are about 10,000 American drivers reaching their 65th birthdays every day.

Among the health issues addressed by the updated Smart Features guide are arthritic joints, limited range of motion in the upper body, pain in the hips and legs, and reduced vision. All of these can affect driving ability, according to Sr. Sherrilene Classen, director of the Institute for Mobility, Activity, and Participation at the University of Florida. Classen also explains on the AAA page that in addition to reducing drivers' ability to safely operate their vehicles, these conditions also make driving uncomfortable.

So what features does AAA recommend for an older driver? Because no two people age in the same fashion, their advice is fairly broad:

  • Drivers with diminished fine motor skills, stiff or painful fingers, or arthritic hands should consider four-door vehicles with keyless entry, keyless ignition, power mirrors and seats, thick steering wheels and dashboards with larger controls, and push-buttons instead of knobs that must be turned.
  • Drivers who experience pain in their hips or legs, have limited range of motion with their knees, or whose leg strength has faded should focus on cars and trucks with seat heights that can be adjusted to fit between the driver's mid-thigh and the lower portion of their buttocks. As well, power seats with six-way adjustability are a wise idea. All of these things make it easier for drivers to enter and exit their vehicles, as well as making it easier for them to see over the dashboard.
  • Drivers with reduced visual acuity or issues with visual contrast should look for vehicles that have large dashboard displays with contrasting text, larger audio and climate control displays, and mirrors that auto-dim.

While these features make driving more comfortable for all drivers, the AAA is pushing senior drivers to consider these things because of recent research from their own Foundation for Traffic Safety which shows that older drivers have the highest rates of death (as compared to other drivers) from traffic accidents, mainly because they are simply physically unable to survive crashes.