Although automotive manufacturers have been improving the safety of their vehicles for decades, advances in the past five years have dramatically increased vehicle safety levels.
Hundreds of options are available that target a senior’s specific needs but unfortunately, most seniors don’t own a vehicle that’s equipped with them.
New Car Safety Features To Keep Seniors Safe
Automotive safety features are, in part, responsible for the increasing number of senior drivers because the innovative features have saved countless lives.
Auto manufacturers have recognized the need to keep seniors on the road as long as possible and are working assiduously to improve the safety features that will make that possible.
Older adults are some of the safest drivers on the road according to the AAA, and the innovative safety features on new cars should ensure that they maintain their status.
Many of these baby boomers have been driving for half a century, some even longer, so it isn’t that they lack skill behind the wheel.
Rather, reaction time, visual acuity, and health issues such as arthritis can make driving less enjoyable than it once was, so comfort features have been on the technological priority list.
New cars are now equipped with features that will restore the joy of driving and the independence that it provides while increasing personal comfort levels.
The variety of options available for senior drivers will enable them to have a vehicle that meets their unique needs and circumstances and keeps them driving for as long as possible.
Electronic fobs now allow the driver to open the vehicle by pressing a button, which can be easier than inserting a key into a lock.
Remote automatic vehicle starters allow the driver and passengers to enter a car that’s a comfortable temperature rather than stiflingly hot or freezing cold. For aging joints, this can be a real comfort.
Heated and cooled, multi-adjustable seats are options on many models and can help increase a senior’s comfort level on all aspects of the drive.
For those on a long drive, being able to adjust the seat periodically can make all the difference between a comfortable drive and a drive accompanied by achy joints.
Popular options for seniors include variable step heights that will accommodate those who are very tall or those who are vertically challenged.
Wider door openings and lower door thresholds make easier access for the body shape that may have been altered by time. An after-market option of swivel seats will make it even easier to get into and out of a vehicle.
Eyesight often changes as the body ages. New vehicles are equipped with high-contrast gauges that are easily read, some in a choice of colors that allow the driver to select the color that works best for him or her.
Larger dials are ergonomically designed for arthritic joints as is the steering wheel that now has a thicker diameter.
The large windows available on many new vehicles provide increased visibility all around the car and largely eliminate blind spots.
Although most vehicles have tinted windows available, tinted windows tend to decrease visibility, particularly at night. This makes them less desirable for senior drivers.
A small, computer-like screen located on the dashboard enables the driver to see what is behind the vehicle when it’s backing up and many will either beep or brake if an object is in the way.
The speed of the beeping will increase as the vehicle gets closer to the object. This rearview camera is invaluable in preventing accidents and when trying to park or hook up a trailer.
More powerful headlights are available that will increase the range of vision for the senior driver.
At one time, cruise control was used for fuel economy and to keep the vehicle at a constant speed. Today’s cruise control, however, is much more.
Electronic sensors maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front and if the vehicle senses that a collision is imminent, it will automatically brake hard and the seatbelts will tighten.
If the collision is avoided and the airbags don’t deploy, the sensor will return the vehicle to its previous cruising speed.
This same technology monitors the blind spots to avert accidents during parking or driving. When the driver signals a turn, the sensors will alert the driver to the presence of an object in the blind spot.
This same technique is used to alert the driver of a lane departure, which can be a lifesaver if the driver has fallen asleep or is becoming drowsy.
Another extension of this technology aims to prevent rollovers by braking and modulating the throttle as necessary. This primarily happens when the driver takes a corner too fast or swerves sharply.
Currently, vehicles equipped with OnStar or Assist will automatically alert their call centers of an accident and provide incident details to the first responders.
Other safety features include automatic fuel shutoff, automatic disconnect of the battery and alternator, and automatic engagement of the hazard lights.
Sensors now detect the size and weight of the seat occupant so that the airbag deploys appropriately for size and position.
New technological advances also sense the seating position and the speed of the vehicle in order to deploy the airbag as safely as possible.
New Vehicles Are Expensive
Seniors who would like to continue driving and take advantage of the new technologies available have an option when it comes to purchasing a new vehicle.
Lease it. Leasing a vehicle is substantially less expensive than an outright purchase and when the lease term is up, the vehicle goes back to the dealer.
This option has an advantage other than the cost savings: In three or four years, vehicles will be vastly improved with safety features that are still on the drawing board.
Some of those features include a version of autopilot and a driver’s seat that swivels 360 degrees and automatically adjusts for maximum comfort during a long drive.
Although there’s a dizzying array of options available for the dashboard, keeping the dash relatively simple may be the best option for a senior driver.
Too many displays and gadgets can be distracting and ultimately defeat the purpose for which they were intended.