Checkup Time: Get Seniors’ Cars Rolling Safely for Spring Driving

It’s time to get out from under winter’s grip and start thinking toward getting behind the wheel safely.

Family caregivers want to ensure their senior loved ones’ cars are in tiptop shape, since a properly maintained vehicle is key to hitting the road without the road hitting back.

It’s important for cars and drivers of all ages.

There are many people, including a number of seniors, who keep their cars garaged during brutal winters, when it is unsafe for them to drive on icy, snow covered roads when there is another alternative.

Call it preventive medicine for both cars and drivers.

Those garaged cars — not to mention many of those that wintered outdoors in the harsh weather — are now calling out for some attention to get them back working optimally.

More Seniors Driving

There are many seniors on the road, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They report that in 2012 there were an estimated 23.1 million licensed seniors over 70 years.

The number of seniors driving is growing as the senior population grows, especially with the aging of baby boomers who have spent their lives behind the wheel.

They tell us older drivers drive less that their younger counterparts, which is no surprise as retirees aren’t commuting every day.

Older drivers also self-regulated their driving habits due to physical limitations, took fewer trips at shorter distances, avoided driving at night or on the highway and limited driving during inclement weather.

Even more good news about senior drivers is that they are much more likely to use their seat belts and more rarely drove under the influence of alcohol.

Seniors may also be more cautious behind the wheel, so family caregivers can often contribute most by helping keep their car working well to further improve their safety on the road.

Car Care Tips for Spring Checkups

Because cars could have been used sparingly and in harsh conditions over the winter months by our senior loved ones, there are a few maintenance items that should be done as part of a checkup now to get them up and running smoothly, efficiently and safely.

You could take your senior loved one’s car to a professional service technician/mechanic to do all the necessary check-ups and repairs but many family caregivers can do it themselves.

Here are some basic vehicle inspection items you should check-off in the check-up.

  1. Brakes including linings, brake drum and rotors
  2. Battery
  3. Fluid levels including transmission, oil, windshield wiper fluid, power steering fluid, coolant
  4. Tires – tread depth, tire pressure, wear pattern, bald spots
  5. Wheel alignment
  6. Belts and hoses – be sure there are no cracks, frayed or loose belts
  7. Headlights, taillights and turn signals functioning
  8. Check engine lights and dashboard indicators properly functioning
  9. Interior lights working
  10. Car wash and wax including under body if driven in winter elements and road chemicals
  11. Gas tank cap in place
  12. Is it up do date on regular scheduled factory recommended maintenance?
  13. Check air conditioning and heating especially defroster for better vision during foggy conditions
  14. If it has been awhile, you may want to have the car inspected via computerized analysis by a service professional or car manufacturer to spot potential problem areas before they result in damage

A well maintained car may mean a new car will not be needed to give everyone peace of mind the senior’s car will safely get them where they want to go.

New Car Technology

If your senior loved one decides (maybe with your urging) their automobile is beyond repair and a newer, more technologically advanced car is needed, there are some things to think about when selecting the right vehicle for them.

Cars have come a long way in the last few years, with many innovations that make them safer for seniors to drive safely as well as to ride as passengers.

  • Antilock braking system (ABS)
  • Automatic emergency braking system
  • Keyless ignition
  • Airbags in front and side
  • Back up camera
  • Hands free tail lift
  • GPS tracking
  • Alerts tired driver
  • Vehicle finder if car lost in parking lot
  • Assisted parking, parallel parking help
  • More comfortable seating that can be set for driver, see better out of windows and mirrors
  • Lane keeping assistance (stay in your own lane)
  • Blind spot detection
  • Rear end collision avoidance
  • OnStar help and other driver road assistance programs

There are innovations in the automobile industry available now compared to what the car your senior loved one might own now, with more upgrades coming soon.

Many New Car Benefits for Seniors

Newer cars can provide more comfort, as well as the ability to have better positioning for driving. The latest safety features can also protect them better if they get in an accident or even help them avoid an accident.

Newer vehicle also often times have better gas mileage, which can be easier on a senior’s budget. If their current car is an older model that presents a risk of breaking down when on the road, investing in a newer model will help provide a bit more peace of mind for family caregivers — and maybe the seniors themselves.

There are also some newer innovations that could be distracting for older drivers so be sure to investigate these and, if possible, consider deactivating some voice alerts that could distract or startle senior drivers, potentially putting them in harm’s way.

Perhaps it won’t be too long before a driverless car, one that is fully automated, can drive your senior anywhere he or she wants to go without needing to actually get behind the wheel. This exciting innovation could keep our seniors independent a little longer, since losing the ability to drive safely often results in failure to continue to age in place.

No matter who drives, it’s important to ensure the car that’s being driven is safe to be on the road.