Safety and the Senior Driver
According the US Census Bureau, there are currently 32 million licensed drivers age 65 and
older, and this number will double over the next 40 years. While this is an indication of the
remarkable quality of life enjoyed by senior citizens today, the undisputed fact remains that
older drivers suffer physical and mental limitations that could endanger their lives and
others’ if necessary measures are not taken. This article will outline the issues faced by
senior drivers in terms of comfort and safety, solutions to these issues, and the cars that
incorporate said solutions.
1. Reaction Time:
A common concern faced by senior drivers is that their reaction time tends to be
slower than before. There are devices on the market that help compensate for this
a) Collision prevention systems and blind spot monitors measure the speed and
distance of objects around the car, alerting senior drivers well in advance.
b) GPS systems that incorporate advanced audio navigation technology don’t
require hand control; the driver can speak to the device, and receive verbal
responses from it, allowing him/her to keep hands and eyes on the road.
2. Vision deterioration
Vision impairment is an inevitable part of aging and can cause fatal accidents but
measures can be taken to enhance visibility.
a) Wider rearview mirrors and backup cameras project a wider field view, giving
senior drivers a clear idea of the space behind them.
b) Displays with larger fonts, buttons and contrasting texts can make it easier for
senior drivers to see the odometer, fuel tank, etc with greater ease.
3. Physical strain:
Time takes a toll on the human body, and can make the entire driving experience
uncomfortable for the elderly. However, many cars come with special features that
ease this strain.
a) When the brakes lock, the driver has to pump the brakes to sustain control over
the car which can be a tremendous exertion for seniors; Anti lock brakes prevent
the wheels from locking and save them the physical exertion.
b) Large knobs and digital controls can ease the strain on arthritic fingers.
c) Keyless entry systems are another convenient feature for senior drivers suffering
from stiff joints and weakened fingers.
d) 360 degree handles and portable swivel seats allow seniors to open car doors and
get in and out of seats with a minimum amount of strain on their joints.
The most difficult part to accept about aging is confusion, forgetfulness and a diminished
attention to small yet important details. Several features help in reducing the incidence
of accidents that occur due to this.
a) A fuel inertia switch automatically switches the gas off, and depending on the model
you have, is programmed to send a signal to 911 if required.
b) Turn signal reminders are also useful because they alert you with a beep if your turn
signal has been on for too long.
5. Shorter stature:
Airbags are vital for safety; however they pose a hazard for drivers of a shorter
stature which is a category many senior citizens fall under. You must sit at least 10
inches away from the airbag since sitting any closer could result in fatal injuries if
the airbag is deployed in a collision. There are three solutions to this:
a) Airbags that deploy according to the size of the passenger and his/her distance
from the airbag.
b) Adjustable seats which can be pushed back and still allow the driver to reach the
pedals comfortably. An additional benefit of this is that these seats usually
provide lumbar support.
c) Adjustable pedals/steering wheel.
Several cars on the market right now incorporate features that are necessary for senior
drivers. A few popular choices are as follows:
1. Lexus LS 460: Equipped with an advanced guidance system that includes a backup
camera, this car makes for easy and safe maneuvering into tight parking spaces. A
remote ignition system allows you to save time allowing your car to warm up while
you walk towards it, and saves arthritic fingers a great deal of discomfort. With the
added bonus of heated, adjustable seats and spectacular Bluetooth technology, this
is a very good option for senior drivers.
2. Toyota Sienna: Incorporating features such remote camera backup and adjustable
seating, the Toyota Sienna also has ample leg-room and space to fit wheel-chairs
and other support equipment. It also comes in a mobility model, catering to
passengers with disabilities and special needs.
3. Audi A8: The Audi A8 is the perfect option for senior drivers with a penchant for the
finer things in life. Some of the features included are a keyless entry system,
enhanced visibility headlights, multifunction steering wheel, parking system with
front and rear sensors and rearview camera options, power door and window shade
features , electronic stabilization control, auto-drive, a top of the line navigation
system, 18- way adjustable power massaging seats, adaptive air suspension system
and Bluetooth technology. The Audi is the ideal balance of style, luxury and safety.
Not only does investing in a car with safety features protect senior drivers from harm, it
also helps in terms of insurance. Many of these features, such as blind spot monitors
and rear-view cameras prevent accidents, which keeps your driving record clean, which
directly leads to lower rates when you look for auto insurance quotes. Other features,
such as safety bags, protect senior drivers from harm in the event of an accident, and
again save on insurance, because many companies offer auto insurance discounts for
investing in these safety measures.