From pedal extensions to seat cushions, older drivers have a number of options available to make their vehicles safer and enable them to stay behind the wheel longer.
Unfortunately, nearly 90 percent of senior drivers in a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study report not making these adaptions to their vehicles.
AAA urges drivers older than 65 — who are 17 times more likely than younger ones to be injured or killed when involved in a crash — to consider these options.
“Crash prevention is critical for this population, and this research suggests that most are not taking advantage of simple and inexpensive devices,” said Dr. David Yang, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety executive director.
The report is the first phase in the AAA Foundation’s groundbreaking Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project gathering data on drivers 65 and older.
Vehicle adaptions can benefit seniors’ mental health by extending the time they are able to remain licensed drivers. Previous AAA Foundation research shows that older people who have stopped driving are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression and nearly five times more likely to enter a long-term care facility than those who remain behind the wheel.
Conditions impacting a driver’s muscles or bones are of particular concern. In the LongROAD study, more than 70 percent of senior drivers had experienced health conditions impacting muscles and bones such as arthritis, hip/knee replacement, and joint pain conditions. The installation of products such as steering wheel covers can help lessen the impact of arthritis. Larger mirrors and assistive devices on seats, meanwhile, can help reduce the impact of limited neck mobility.
In collaboration with the American Society on Aging, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association, AAA developed CarFit, which trains professionals to conduct a comprehensive, 12-point check of a senior’s vehicle and make recommendations for needed adjustments. You can sign up for an event online at www.car-fit.org
AAA also offers the Smart Features for Older Drivers tool, which can help aging drivers identify inexpensive devices and vehicle features to optimize comfort and safety. This tool and other helpful resources for seniors and their families can be found at seniordriving.aaa.com.
– Michelle Donati is the communications manager at AAA Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.