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Nearly Nine in 10 Seniors Drive a Car that Doesn’t Fit their Aging Needs

Finding the right vehicle for an older driver can improve safety and comfort.

Ten thousand Americans turn 65 every day. In Connecticut, more than one out of every five drivers are in this age group. Nearly 90 percent of drivers 65 and older suffer from health issues that affect driving safety. These conditions include diminished vision, arthritic joints, hip and leg pain, and limited upper-body range of motion. Selecting the proper vehicle for an older driver is key to improving safety and comfort.

Data from a new AAA survey reveals that only one in 10 senior drivers with aging health issues is driving a vehicle that has features like keyless entry and larger dashboard controls that can assist with such conditions. With that in mind, AAA has updated its Smart Features for Older Drivers resource to address a broader range of health conditions and include new data on 2012 vehicle features.

We know that families will be coping with these age-related driving safety issues for years to come. The good news is that specific ‘smart features’ on today’s cars can help older drivers and their families deal with these conditions.

Because everyone ages differently, AAA recommends older drivers look for vehicles that address their specific needs and medical conditions:

  • Drivers suffering from hip or leg pain, decreased leg strength or limited knee range of motion should look for vehicles with six-way adjustable power seats and seat heights that come between the driver’s mid-thigh and lower buttocks. These features can make it easier for drivers to enter and exit a vehicle.
  • Drivers with arthritic hands, painful or stiff fingers or diminished fine motor skills benefit from four-door models, thick steering wheels, keyless entry and ignition, power mirrors and seats and larger dashboard controls with buttons. These features reduce the amount of grip strength needed and reduce pain associated with turning or twisting motions.
  • Drivers with diminished vision or problems with high-low contrast will find vehicles with auto-dimming mirrors, large audio and climate controls and displays with contrasting text helpful. These features can reduce blinding glare and make controls and displays easier to see.

Underscoring the critical need to improve older driver safety is new research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that found that older drivers have the highest rates of death compared to other drivers largely due to their inability to survive a crash.  Conversely, the research found significant gains in overall motorists’ safety in the past decade. While crashes per mile driven decreased for drivers of all ages between 1995 and 2010 by 28 percent, the biggest decreases were found in drivers ages 75-79, down 42 percent; and drivers ages 80-84, down 40 percent.

For more information on which vehicles offer the best fit and to access other free resources AAA has developed for senior drivers, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com.

As a leading advocate for senior driver safety, AAA launched Smart Features for Older Drivers in partnership with the University of Florida’s Institute for Mobility, Activity and Participation in 2008. AAA is highlighting these new materials in support of the American Occupational Therapists Association (AOTA) Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, December 3–7. You can learn more about AOTA here.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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