SOURCE: Auto Club of So. Calif.
March 21, 2008 10:05 ET
AAA Helps Aging Drivers Match Vehicles to Physical Changes
Research Identifies Vehicle Features That Improve Safety, Comfort of Aging Drivers and Continues AAA Commitment to Lifelong Safe Mobility
LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - March 21, 2008) - Research results showing how physical
conditions faced by senior adults can be mitigated by choosing a vehicle
with appropriate features was announced today by AAA, in partnership with
the University of Florida's National Older Driver Research and Training
AAA and the NODRTC researchers released its Smart Features for Mature
Drivers guide today at the New York International Auto Show.
AAA's Smart Features for Mature Drivers identifies vehicle components that
can assist drivers with visual, physical and mental changes that are
frequently encountered as they age. The AAA information pointed out
conditions often faced by senior adults, including diminished vision,
arthritic hands, hip and leg pain and limited upper-body range of motion,
highlights features that best address each condition and provides examples
of vehicles exemplifying those features.
"Driving is a key to social interaction and healthy living and
independence," said Steve Mazor of the Automobile Club of Southern
California's Automotive Research Center in Diamond Bar, Calif. "This is
important information for this growing segment of the driving population.
We encourage older drivers and their families to use the Smart Features for
Mature Drivers research as a guide when selecting their next vehicle or
evaluating their current one because specific vehicle features can help
improve driver safety and comfort."
Persons over age 65 represent the fastest growing population segment in the
United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, there were more than 37 million people age 65 and older in
the United States in 2006 and 29 million were licensed drivers in 2005. It
is estimated that by 2020 there will be more than 40 million licensed
drivers age 65 and older.
As a person ages, physiological changes can affect driving ability. Muscle
strength, reaction times, range of motion and visual acuity tend to
diminish as part of the natural aging process. Also, the increased
prevalence of health issues such as arthritis, hip and knee joint pain or
osteoporosis can reduce the ability to safely execute the complex task of
In a recent survey, AAA found that 43 percent of motorists over the age of
55 suffered from at least one of nine driving related difficulties commonly
caused by aging, and nearly one out of four motorists over 55 plan to
purchase a vehicle in the next two years.
Because everyone ages differently, AAA recommends mature drivers look for
vehicles with features that address their specific needs and health issues.
Some of the recommendations included in Smart Features for Mature Drivers
-- Drivers suffering from hip or leg pain, decreased leg strength or
limited knee range of motion should look for vehicles with six-way
adjustable power seats and seat heights that come between the driver's mid-
thigh and lower buttocks. Both of these features can make it easier for
drivers to enter and exit a vehicle.
-- Drivers with arthritic hands, painful or stiff fingers or diminished
fine motor skills would benefit from four-door models, thick steering
wheels, keyless entry and ignition, power mirrors and seats and larger
dashboard controls with buttons.
-- Drivers with diminished vision or problems with low contrast
sensitivity will find helpful vehicles with extendable sun visors, large
audio and climate controls and displays with contrasting text.
AAA's Smart Features for Mature Drivers also includes vehicle features
recommended for all seniors, regardless of their health issues, such as:
-- Proven crashworthiness, crash test and rollover ratings from the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (safercar.gov) and the
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (iihs.org/ratings)
-- Side and dual-stage/threshold airbags that adjust the deployment force
based on the severity of the crash
-- Adjustable head restraints and extra padding
-- Antilock brakes
-- Dynamic stability control