Savvy Senior: Car shopping tips for older drivers

Several features are available on vehicles to make driving easier for seniors.
BY JIM MILLER Published: February 5, 2013
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DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: What resources can you recommend to seniors who are shopping for a car? My wife and I are relatively healthy 70-year-olds and are looking for a senior-friendly vehicle, but could use some help.

— Older Drivers

DEAR OLDER: For seniors who are in the market for a new or used car, AAA and the University of Florida's Institute for Mobility, Activity and Participation has just updated an excellent resource called “Smart Features for Older Drivers” that can help you choose a vehicle that meets your needs as you age.

While the automotive industry doesn't make vehicles specifically designed for senior citizens, they do make certain vehicles with features that can help accommodate the needs of older drivers.

With that in mind, “Smart Features for Older Drivers” addresses the age-related physical changes — like diminished vision, arthritis and range of motion loss — that can affect a senior's driving ability and comfort behind the wheel, and outlines various vehicle features that help address those issues. Here's what they recommend.

Safety first: The first priority is to identify vehicles with a proven safety record, which you can research online at safercar.gov and iihs.org/ratings. Also look for vehicles that have dynamic stability control, anti-lock brakes, adjustable head restraints and side and dual-stage/threshold airbags that adjust the deployment force based on the severity of the crash. Your next step is to identify specific vehicle features that can help meet your physical needs. So depending on what ails you, here's what to look for.

Hip and knee problems: For comfort, a better fit and easier entry and exit, look for vehicles that have six-way adjustable power seats that move the seat forward and backward, up and down, and the seat-back forward and backward. Also look for low door thresholds and seat heights that don't require too much bending or climbing to get into. The ideal seat height for seniors is between mid-thigh and lower buttocks when standing next to the vehicle. Leather or faux leather seats are also easier to slide in and out of than cloth seats.



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