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Vehicle Accessories and The Older Driver

PMC  December 18, 2018    pmc  Jeff Conner

Transportation hurdles impact seniors and those with physical limitations every day. Think about mobility aids, vehicle accessories, and the older driver this December during National Older Driver Safety Awareness Week to learn more.

Are mobility aids the only way to assist older drivers or those with physical limitations to stay on the road? Eventually, everyone becomes an older driver, so it is prudent to consider ways to stay safe across the age span – even if it doesn’t impact you yet. This December acknowledge National Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, the 4th-8th, and learn how you can promote safe driving while supporting older driver’s autonomy and independence.

Older Drivers

There are over 40-million licensed drivers over the age of 65 in this country, yet transportation hurdles stand in the way of seniors and those with physical limitations, impacting and impeding their lives. Many associate driving with a sense of independence, so it is easy to understand why a senior would not want to willingly give-up the privilege. However, if seniors are going to take to the roads, safety should always be the priority.

The First Step

The first step in addressing and discussing safety with an is to have an open, honest, and non-threatening conversation with the older driver. Many may not feel as though there is an issue, so it can help to develop talking points prior to help guide the conversation. Be empathetic but firm when it comes to safety concerns. If the issue surrounds the inability to secure transportation to participate in activities and daily life, be prepared to offer some viable solutions.

Vehicle Accessories and the Older Driver

Are there items and accessories that can make the older driver safer behind the wheel? Many of the things that help seniors can help any driver, at any age, but here goes:

  • Corrective Vision – How is your vision? There is no shame in wearing glasses and many drivers wear prescription lenses daily. When it comes to the older driver, routine vision appointments and exams will help to determine if there are any issues that could impede driving, like cataracts. Cataracts can go unnoticed by the afflicted, rendering them legally blind in some instances, and written off as a natural sign of aging.
  • Regular Maintenance – The car should be maintained regularly, serviced routinely, and road-legal. This not only ensures reliability and performance but also can prevent the senior from getting pulled over and ticketed.
  • Vehicle Accessories – Accessories and augments like hand controls can also improve the safety of a senior’s driving. Things like ramps augment the home environment which may make driving more accessible and feasible for those with mobility challenges.
  • Vehicle Lifts – For seniors with physical disabilities, vehicle lifts may be the key to getting behind the wheel again. Talk to mobility retailers to learn more about how these devices stow easily, making motorists more independent.

Proper Positioning

Encourage and share a safer way to drive with proper positioning;  positioning in your seat impacts safety in the event of a collision or crash. First, seat yourself about ten-inches from the steering wheel to provide room for your airbag if it should employ. Make sure that you – or the older driver- have vision at least three inches above the steering wheel; this may involve adjusting the height of the seat. Move your seat so that you don’t have to raise or stretch your legs to operate the pedals easily and always wear your seat belt.

Other Options

There are alternative options available to older drivers that include transportation services. These services, unfortunately, are not always widely available in all regions, so talk to your physician, caregiver, or caseworker to learn more. These services are typically subsidized to serve the senior population, put in place to ensure older adults maintain community activities and commitments, without the hurdle of transportation issues.

Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, December 3–7, 2018 H2

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) originated a week that is dedicated to reinforcing the importance of mobility among the older population. Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is a week that aims to promote clearer understanding, tolerance, and support of seniors’ need to remain active in the community- which highlights transportation issues. This commemoration is hosted in December during a time when families come together for the holidays, to share this same solidarity and togetherness when addressing older drivers.  The goal of this national event is to prevent transportation from getting in the way of older Americans’ quality of life and keeping them from doing the things that they want to do.

Share the importance of transportation for seniors by supporting them in improving accessibility. Visit retailers in the area that specialize in mobility aids for seniors and those with physical limitations or disabilities. These professionals will be able to assess the senior’s needs and fit them with the best options to increase access and convenience in everyday activities. Make it a point to learn more during Older Driver Safety Awareness Week.