5 Tools to Help Seniors Stay Safe While Driving
Approximately 500 seniors are severely injured in traffic accidents each day, with another 15 dying in car crashes, according to recent statistics from the CDC. Younger drivers have faster response times and are more likely to bounce back after an injury.
In spite of the dangers on the road for seniors, older drivers also tend to be safer drivers. They tend to stay close to home, wear a seat belt, are less likely to drive drunk and many avoid driving in bad weather. Some may also avoid night driving or driving in congested areas during rush hour traffic.
If you’re a senior who’s concerned about your safety on the road, but still feel confident in your driving abilities, there are several tools you can use to make driving even safer. You might be surprised that, even after an injury or if you’ve become disabled or partially disabled, it’s still safe to drive with a few modifications to your vehicle. First, we’ll explore the driving aides that may help seniors with disabilities maintain their independence, and then we’ll explore technology that makes driving safer for everyone.
These aftermarket parts make it possible for seniors with foot, knee or leg injuries or disabilities to drive comfortably. Primary controls take the place of gas and brake pedals. A spinner knob on the steering wheel can help those with an arm or shoulder injuries steer comfortably, and have better control, with just one hand. Secondary controls make it easier to operate blinkers, windshield wipers, and gear shifts.
For seniors with back pain, a comfortable, doctor-prescribed back cushion can make a big difference in comfort while on the road. If you’re in a more comfortable, ergonomic position, you may be able to drive longer distances, and can put all your attention on the road, where it belongs, rather than focusing on your pain.
Now standard on many cars in Europe, head-up dashboard displays are just starting to be introduced in the U.S. Head-up displays, or HUDs, take the image you might normally view on a small 5” or 7” GPS screen or on your smartphone and project it onto the windshield directly in front of you, without obscuring your view of the road ahead.
Some HUDs also display information commonly seen on the dashboard, including vehicle speed and average or real-time gas mileage. These displays help the driver keep their eyes on the road while keeping important information in a direct line-of-sight.
Many of today’s minivans, SUVs and even sedans offer back-up cameras, either as a standard feature or an option. These cameras allow you to see directly behind the vehicle, even the areas that might normally be blind spots. Guidelines make parallel parking and backing up easier, while sonar sensors beep if you come too close to an object.
For seniors who are less-than-agile, back-up cameras eliminate the need to twist your body or crane your neck to see a full 180 view behind the vehicle.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the option of not driving at all. Residents of senior living communities typically have shuttles or a car service available to take them into town, to popular parks or tourist attractions or to doctor’s appointments. Look into day trips in your senior community that might afford you the opportunity to travel even farther from home, and enjoy a day’s worth of fun activities with your friends in your senior community.
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