Nearly Nine in 10 Seniors Drive a Car that Doesn’t Fit their Aging Needs
AAA research helps “silver tsunami” match vehicle features to health concerns
Washington, D.C., (Dec. 3, 2012) – With nearly 90 percent of motorists 65 and older suffering from health issues that affect driving safety, finding a car that not only adapts to conditions, such as lack of flexibility or muscle strength, while maintaining safety and comfort can be difficult. Data from a new AAA survey also reveals that only one in 10 senior drivers with aging health issues are driving a vehicle that has features like keyless entry and larger dashboard controls that can assist with such conditions.
To better equip the “silver tsunami” for driving safety and comfort, 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. 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. In the update, Smart Features identifies vehicle features that optimize older driver safety and comfort, lists current vehicles with those features, and allows users to explore their individual needs through an interactive online tool.
“With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, we know that families will be coping with these age-related driving safety issues for years to come,” said AAA President & CEO Robert Darbelnet. “The good news is that specific ‘smart features’ on today’s cars can help older drivers and their families deal with these conditions.”
Smart Features addresses a wide variety of conditions that are commonly experienced with aging, including diminished vision, arthritic joints, hip and leg pain and limited upper-body range of motion. “As a person ages, muscle strength, range of motion and vision tend to diminish and can affect driving ability,” said Dr. Sherrilene Classen, Director, Institute for Mobility, Activity and Participation at the University of Florida. “Not only do these conditions affect a driver’s comfort, their presence can also reduce the ability to safely execute the complex task of driving.”
Because everyone ages differently, AAA recommends older drivers look for vehicles that address their specific needs and medical conditions. Some of the recommendations included in Smart Features for Older Drivers include:
- 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.
AAA is highlighting these new materials in support of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, December 3–7, 2012. AOTA’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week aims to promote understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation to ensure older adults remain active in the community—shopping, working or volunteering—with the confidence that transportation will not be the barrier stranding them at home. You can learn more about the AOTA here.
For more information on which vehicles are the right fit for you and to access all the free resources AAA offers to senior drivers, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.
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Is a Self-driving Car on the Horizon?
The AAA advice fails to mention several other features that are already available in today’s modern cars or the future evolution of the driverless car.
Parking can be a problem as we get older and find it hard to turn around to look behind, so many cars already feature cameras, sensors and parking assist features. Others offer smart cruise control systems that measure the distance to the car ahead so that a safe interval can be maintained. Accelerometers are used in air bags and to measure changes in speed, and all sorts of other specialized sensors do things like precisely measure wheel rotation in antilock brakes and stability-control systems. And GPS navigation systems have become amazingly accurate, making it seem like the car could almost drive itself. Well, engineers are working on that too.
The challenge is to make a self-driving car that’s at least as safe as a human-driven car, and nearly all major manufacturers are working on that. California, Florida and Nevada passed new laws allowing for the operation of these experimental cars on public roads, and the tests are progressing well. Still, remaining challenges could delay commercial availability by 10-20 years. I hope that when I can no longer drive, I may be able to be a passenger in my own driverless car, pointing to a touch screen to tell it where I want to go, and then sitting back while the car does the rest. Here’s one article where you can learn more.