An AAA survey from 2012 reveals that only one in 10 senior drivers with aging health issues is driving a vehicle that has features like keyless entry and larger dashboard controls. This raises the question, “What, exactly, is the ‘right’ car?” The survey also reveals that nearly 90 percent of drivers age 65+ suffer from health conditions that affect their driving. That’s two strikes against the mature driver even before starting the car. Add unsafe road conditions, and your senior faces a potentially dangerous situation. We’ll explore ways to keep your loved one safe and comfortable behind the wheel.
Beyond Defensive Driving
What was the instructor’s mantra when you were learning to drive? “Always leave yourself an out!” Driving instructors and parents teach us to look out for the other driver. Your senior can be the best driver in the world, but drivers have to anticipate what other drivers might do and how to remove themselves from the path of an unsafe driver.
Nothing can guarantee your senior’s safety on the road, but defensive driving increases the likelihood of a safe arrival at her destination. Once your loved one earns the title “mature driver,” you need to help her step up her game to make up for longer reaction times. Here are some ways you can get started.
Tweak the Environment
Choosing a senior-friendly car increases comfort for your loved one, and comfort sets the stage for safety. When a driver is fidgeting or straining to reach or see, he’s not concentrating on driving. The following conditions and features help to create the optimal driving experience for the mature driver, according to Wall St. Cheat Sheet:
- Sedans: If mobility is an issue, sedans are the best option. Coupes (two-door models) sit low to the ground and can make entry and exit difficult. Large vehicles like SUVs, trucks, and minivans are the opposite — their height can involve too much maneuvering to get in and out of the vehicle.
- Seats: Look for seats with lumbar control and heat, with user-friendly controls and memory settings.
- Steering wheel: Tilting and telescoping steering wheels allow the driver to position the steering wheel to fit her body.
- Backup cameras: “Eyes in the back of the head” can save lives when someone’s view is obstructed.
- Mirrors: Wide-angle side and rearview mirrors minimize blind spots, and auto-dimming rearview mirrors and backup cameras minimize glare at night.
- Large dashboard controls: Larger controls are a godsend for the farsighted driver.
Your mileage may vary, and your senior won’t need all of the features above, so concentrate on the ones that provide the most benefits.
Find the Car That’s the Best Fit
Edmunds‘ top models for 2014 each come with senior-friendly options built into their design or available as add-ons:
- Acura RDX SUV
- Audi A8 Sedan
- Ford Taurus Sedan
- Honda Accord Sedan
- Hyundai Sonata Sedan
- Lexus ES 350 Sedan
- Mazda CX-9 SUV
- Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan
- Toyota Avalon Sedan
- Volkswagen Passat
Cars don’t change much from one year to the next unless they receive a complete overhaul, so buying a car from the previous model year will save money without sacrificing features. When your senior buys a car designed for the mature driver, he’s making an investment in his comfort and safety — don’t let anyone sell him a car that doesn’t meet his needs.