From the misconception that seniors cause more accidents on the roads to the erroneous assumption that age makes you unsafe behind the wheel, the myths about older drivers are numerous. While there are undeniable physical changes that occur as we age, the good news is that technology is making cars safer with each passing year.
If you will be helping a senior driver in your life buy a new car, here are a few tips for finding one that offers the most-senior friendly options.
Finding a Safe Car for an Older Driver
Our first tip is to see how safe the car is in a crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publishes crash test ratings for all vehicles. You can use their database to investigate how well any car that your senior loved one is considering performed during safety testing. It is a five star rating system where more stars means a safer vehicle.
A few more tips for options to consider when you are purchasing a vehicle for an older driver include:
- Back-up cameras: For older adults who might not be as flexible as they used to be, these cameras can help make reversing out of parking spaces easier and less painful. The back-up cameras identify potential hazards directly behind the car and in the pathway surrounding it.
- Blind spot monitor: A blind spot monitor utilizes sensors to detect and alert the driver to vehicles located alongside or behind them. Alerts vary from vehicle to vehicle but can be visual (e.g., a warning light on a side mirror), audible, or a vibration of the steering wheel. For seniors who have difficulty turning their head to look over their shoulder, these monitors can be life savers.
- Automatic tailgate: Crossover-style vehicles that have an automatic tailgate are another nice feature. With the push of a button, the tailgate lifts making it easier to load and unload packages and groceries. Another push of the button and the tail gate returns to a closed position. For seniors with balance problems or diminished upper body strength, it is much easier than trying to lift a tailgate.
- Parallel park assist: You don’t have to be an older adult to appreciate this one! Many drivers struggle with parallel parking. This vehicle option does the parking for you. For a senior driver who lives in an urban area, this can be an attractive option to invest in when purchasing a new vehicle.
- Power adjustable seats: While this feature might seem like more of a convenience, for older drivers it can actually be a safety option. They can adjust the seat to go further back when they enter and exit the vehicle. This makes it easier and safer to slide behind or away from the wheel. Once they are safely seated, the senior can move the seat closer to the pedals.
- Thick, adjustable steering wheel: The steering wheel can play an important role in a vehicle’s safety. A thicker wheel makes it easier for an adult with arthritis to grip the wheel securely. Having a steering wheel that adjusts to maintain a safe distance between the senior’s chest and the front airbag is also important.
AAA created a helpful guide you can download. “Smart Features for Older Drivers” is free and packed full of information about features that help keep seniors safer behind the wheel.
If you’d like to learn more about vehicle safety devices for yourself or a senior loved one, take a few minutes to read “4 Driving Aids to Keep Older Adults Safe Behind the Wheel.” You’ll find suggestions for tools you can use to adapt a senior’s car for comfort and safety.