· 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 when older drivers are involved in a crash, they are more likely to be killed simply because of their fragility.
But the research also found significant gains in overall motorist 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.
CarFit events are sponsored free by AAA Oklahoma periodically across the state for seniors to learn how well they “fit” in their vehicle and how to get the most out of their car’s safety equipment. The auto club offers both online and classroom driver refresher courses that earn auto insurance discounts. Go to Mature Driver Safety in the AAA News & Safety section of AAA.com to learn more or call (918) 748-1071.
AAA is highlighting these tools and resources in support of the American Occupational Therapists Association (AOTA) Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, Dec. 3–7. The week is an opportunity to promote the importance of mobility and transportation, which enables older adults to remain active in their communities.