According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are 14 million licensed drivers age 65 and older. While age doesn't necessarily make you a bad driver, it can bring about physical limitations that make driving a challenge. Jim Miller, editor of Savvy Senior, was invited on the “Today” show to talk about a few items that make getting behind the wheel not only easier but safer.
Ingress and egress
Swivel Seat Cushion
Getting in and out of a car becomes much simpler with this Swivel Seat Cushion — ideal for people who suffer from limited mobility or hip pain. This padded seat is 15 inches in size and turns 360 degrees.
Handybar Car Aid
A support handle that helps you out of the car safely and securely. Handybar inserts into the U-shaped striker plate on your vehicle door frame, can be used on both driver and passenger side doors and supports up to 350 pounds.
Sun Zapper Glare Shield
Helps keep the glare out of your eyes. Attaches to your existing visor and offers a special sliding shield to let you knock out extra-bright glare spots.
20/20 Panoramic Rearview Mirror
This clip-on convex panoramic rearview mirror reduces blind spots. Thirteen inches wide and easily installed over existing rearview mirror. Ideal for those with limited neck mobility who have a difficult time looking back over their shoulder.
CIPA HotSpots Corner Wedge Safety Mirror
Corner wedge safety mirror (works like a convex mirror) helps eliminate blind spots in your side-view mirrors. Size, 2 x 2 inches, attaches with self-adhesive.
Seat belt comfort
Easy Reach Seat Belt Handle
If you suffer from shoulder pain or arthritis, reaching over to pull on your seat belt can be painful. The Easy Reach Seat Belt Handle offers an additional 6 inches to grab on to, making it easier to pull your seat belt toward you.
Sheepskin Seat Belt Cover
This soft, thick sheepskin seat belt cover protects your neck and shoulder from rubbing and chafing. Fits any size seat belt. Available in eight colors.
Seat Belt Strap Adjuster
Seat Belt Adjuster keeps the seat belt shoulder strap off your neck and lets you position it where it should be — in between your shoulder and your neck for greater comfort.
Price: $6.85 (for two adjusters)
This orthopedic wedge car seat cushion takes the pressure off your back so you can sit comfortably and raises your upper body so you can see easier.
Foot Pedal Extensions
Pedal extensions allow you to comfortably reach the gas and brake pedals, and can also keep you a safer distance away from the area in which the air bag will deploy. Made with a non-skid surface, they range from 1 to 4 inches high.
Price: $160 to $210 for both gas and brake pedals (must be installed by a professional)
For those with limited hand mobility or arthritis, the key holder offers more leverage for turning keys. Key extender holds two keys and folds up for easy storage in a pocket or purse.
By the year 2030, one in four drivers in America will be age 65 or older. For most, advancing age bring about physical changes like loss of mobility, vision and strength that can make driving difficult.
New Car Features
There are a variety of features on new cars today that can make driving more convenient and safer for seniors. If you in the market for a new car, here are some different things to keep in mind:
- Ingress and egress: Being able to get into and out of the car easily is a big priority for most seniors. Today, several auto makers are offering raised seats in their sedans (between 2 and 4 inches higher than standard sedans) that make entry and exit much easier and giving drivers an SUV-like view of the road. Other factors to consider are heated seats that provide comfort for those with lower back or hip pain, and don’t forget the leather. Leather seats offer a less restrictive surface and are easier to maneuver in than cloth.
- User-friendly controls: Surveys show that older drivers like big and simple, so large knobs and controls that are easy to see and operate, and analog gauges (verses digital) that are easy to read can make the driving experience easier and more enjoyable. Adjustable foot pedals and steering wheel are also very helpful for the smaller drivers.
- Comfort and Safety: Some key points to consider before you buy are: Seats - are they comfortable and supportive? Is there adequate interior space? Are the seatbelts adjustable and easy to use? Is the ride smooth and quiet? What is the crash test rating of the car? (available at www.NHTSA.gov)
- Lower trunk entry: If loading your trunk is a pain, many cars today offer trunks with lower belt lines, which make getting items into and out of your trunk a little easier.
- Reverse Sensing System: This is a handy system, available on many new vehicles, that alerts you to objects behind the vehicle and out of your view, when you’re backing up.
The Ford Five Hundred is an ideal car for older Americans featuring many of the senior-friendly features that are currently available.
Price: Starts at $22,840
There are a variety of special custom features that can be added to new and older model cars, vans, trucks and SUVs that can help older drivers with mobility loss. These features can be installed at most auto dealerships around the country. The different specialized items include:
Power Turnout Seat
As demonstrated on the PT Cruiser, this electric powered seat will rotate (around 90 degrees) making getting into and out of a car much easier. The Turnout seat can be installed on both drivers and passenger sides and will fit in many different cars and minivans. The Turnout is also available in manual form.
Price: $2,200 installed (price may vary)
Curbsider Classic Lift
As demonstrated on the PT Cruiser, this electric powered lift will hoist wheelchairs and scooters up to 400 pounds. These lifts can be installed on hatchback cars, minivans, SUVs, full size vans and pick ups. Bruno’s offers 29 different types of lifts to fit your specific needs.
Price: $3,100 installed. (price may vary)
Turny Orbit Seat
As demonstrated on the Toyota Sienna minivan, this electric powered seat will rotate you 90 degrees, lift you out of your vehicle and lower you to the ground. It’s ideal for those who are disabled or have severe mobility loss. The Turny Orbit can be installed in many different vans, SUVs and pickups.
Price: $6,700 installed (price may vary)
VSL-900 (Power Lift)
As demonstrated on the Toyota Sienna minivan, this electric powered lift will hoist wheelchairs, power chairs and scooters up to 225 pounds, but will only work on a minivan.
Price: $3,200 installed (price may vary)
Note: For more information or assistance with these auto helpers, talk with a driver rehabilitation specialist in your area. They can assess your specific needs and make appropriate recommendations. To locate a specialist, visit www.aota.org/olderdriver or call 888-232-1184.
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