Independence – that’s what driving meant to many of today’s seniors back when they were 15 and anticipating getting their license.
After spending a life in which driving meant commuting to work, carpooling the kids, and so much more, it means independence once again, especially for seniors who are aging in place.
To many older adults, driving means not being stuck at home or calling on friends or family for a ride somewhere.
Still, as family members of these seniors, we worry if they are able to drive safely, if their eyes are still sharp enough to see potential hazards on the road, or if their reaction time is quick enough to avoid erratic drivers they encounter.
We have been pleased to see Consumer Reports is also concerned about the safety of senior drivers and have been following their reporting.
Interestingly, one of the Consumer Reports articles discussed that “giving up driving increases a person’s mortality risk and makes seniors more likely to land in nursing homes and suffer from depression.”
As family caregivers, we have to balance those possibilities against our fears each time we think about our senior loved ones behind the wheel.
That doesn’t mean we have to just stand by quietly as we honor our seniors’ desires to stay on the road. There are steps we can take to help them be as safe as possible, starting with the car they are driving.
Selecting Cars for Senior Drivers
In a recent report, Consumer Reports identified their top 25 cars for senior drivers. If you are interested in seeing their recommendations, you can check out their article, but we want to discuss the features that are essential in cars for older drivers with physical limitations.
Whether they get one of the recommended cars or would rather choose one more to their own liking, the features identified will help narrow down the search.
Features that make cars safe, reliable and senior-friendly.
- Front seats that are easy to access, with doors that are wide enough to get through and openings that are not too high or low.
- Comfortable 360 degree view out of the vehicle, allowing drivers of any height see everything going on around them.
- Gauges and indicators that are simple to read and straightforward controls for such things as adjusting the radio and the car’s internal temperature.
- Headlights that have enough power for safe nighttime driving for older eyes that don’t see as well in the dark as they once did.
- Backup cameras make driving safer for all of us, not just seniors. Seeing what is behind us when we are driving in reverse can help us avoid many fender-benders and worse.
- While they aren’t available in many models yet, automatic braking and collision warnings can help drivers whose reaction time has slowed stay on the road more safely.
- Even cars with great visibility have blind spots that can cause us issues as we change lanes, so warnings that help us avoid them provide great value.
Helping senior loved ones pick a car that has features that make driving safer is important, though we also need to keep in mind it’s still their choice. After all, having the right car is an important aspect of the independence driving provides.
Additional Resources to Check Out