Older Driver Safety Awareness week took place from Dec. 4-8. In support of the campaign initiative, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study on senior driving.
The study found that over 90 percent of elderly drivers do not take advantage of devices created to assist them in their drive, such as pedal extensions, seat cushions and steering wheel covers.
This high percentage is especially staggering because seniors aged 65 and older are more than twice as likely than younger drivers to be killed when involved in a crash.
These findings are important because there are nearly 780,000 North Carolinians and over 410,000 South Carolinains aged 65 and older who are licensed drivers.
Many vehicle adaptions available for senior drivers are designed to reduce pain while driving, increase visibility and make motions easier. More than 70 percent of senior drivers report health conditions that impact muscles and bones such as arthritis, hip/knee replacement and joint pains. Steering wheel covers can help lessen the impact of arthritis and improve grip while larger mirrors can help with limited neck mobility.
Some of the most inexpensive devices that can create a positive impact are:
Alongside safety reasons, AAA is encouraging seniors to take advantage of vehicle adaptions because often seniors stop driving altogether due to an ailment that could have been alleviated. Studies have revealed that losing the freedom to drive leads to a faster decline in mental health, as they are two times more likely to suffer from depression and nearly five times more likely to enter a long-term care facility than those who remain behind the wheel.
One potential reason many seniors do not take advantage of these features is that they are simply unaware of them. To spread awareness and educate the public, AAA has teamed up with the American Occupational Therapy Association, the American Society on Aging and AARP to develop CarFit.
CarFit was created to help senior drivers better utilize the vehicle features and technologies available to them. The community-based program allows trained professionals to conduct a quick and comprehensive 12-point check of a senior’s personal vehicle and recommend adjustments if needed. Senior drivers can sign up for an event or read about the features online. They are also able to identify in-expensive devices on the Smart Features for Older Drivers tool.
In addition to adopting new vehicle features to improve driving, seniors can also extend their driving years by implementing strategies that reduce their risk on the road. One way is to avoid challenging situations such as driving at night, in bad weather or during rush-hour traffic. Also, seniors who successfuly continue to drive are less likely to engage in potentially distracting behaviors such as talking on a cell phone, texting, eating or grooming in the car.
For more seasonal traffic safety tips and community news in the Carolinas, please subscribe to AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety e-newsletter. By following the link, you will be entered to receive an email each month with timely traffic safety tips and happenings.