Hints for Older Drivers

April 23, 2013

As we get older, there are many physical and cognitive changes that impact on our driving skills. While no one can stop the aging process, there are many things you can do to maximize your driving skills.

One step can be participating in a Car-Fit event, which is a program sponsored by AAA, AARP and AOTA, the American Occupational Therapy Association. This program is free and is designed to look at how seniors “fit” in their cars and to make suggestions about positioning in the car. Trained Car-Fit technicians look at such things as how close you are to the steering wheel, how your mirrors are positioned, and how well you are able to reach the pedals.

Helen Hayes Hospital will be hosting a Car-Fit event on Saturday, May 4th, 2013, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM in Parking Lot G. Appointments are recommended and you can find out more information or make an appointment at 845-786-4809.

Another way to enhance your skills behind the wheel is to select a car that best meets your needs. AAA has a list of recommended features and vehicles entitled Smart Features for Mature Drivers. The following recommendations are based on the brochure.

Recommended features for drivers with hip or leg pain:
– low door threshold
– power seat to make it easier to adjust for leg room
– leather or vinyl seats to decrease friction between driver and seat
– seat height should be between mid-thigh and lower buttock to assist with exiting/entering.

Recommendations for drivers with hand pain or limited fine motor coordination:
– four-door models, so the doors are lighter and easier to open/close
– thick/padded steering wheel, to decrease the stress on your joints
– keyless entry and ignition or adapted key holders
– power mirrors and seats, so adjustments are easier to make
– dashboard controls with buttons or large knobs, so they are easier to manipulate.

Recommended features for all mature drivers include:
– proven crashworthiness, crash test and rollover ratings from national organizations, including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
– side and dual-stage/threshold airbags that adjust the force based on the intensity of the crash, distance from passenger, and weight of driver/passenger
– adjustable head restraints and extra padding
– anti-lock brakes
– dynamic stability control, that helps maintain control on turns.

For more information, check out the AAA Smart Feature list at: http://seniordriving.aaa.com/smartfeatures.

-Lynn Matthes OTR/L, CDRS