There are many natural age-related changes one faces that can affect driving like vision, flexibility, strength, range of motion, and height. Automotive advancements have been developed to help compensate for these changes and support your safe driving.
The risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as we age. Being properly fitted in your vehicle, along with safe driving habits, can help you avoid crashes altogether.
Common Existing Safety Features
Today’s vehicles are designed with safety in mind, which is why the following features are included in modern vehicles:
- Safety belts – During a crash, safety belts help keep you secure in your vehicle. Proper use of safety belts is the most effective strategy to protect vehicle occupants from crash related injuries.
- Airbags - Driver and passenger airbags protect front seat occupants in the event of a front-end collision. Side or “curtain” airbags offer protection in side impact collisions.
- Head Restraints - Head restraints help prevent your head from being snapped in a rear-end collision.
- Anti-lock brakes help improve steering control during sudden stops.
- Mirrors allow you to have a good view of the front, side, and rear of your vehicle so you can make safer lane changes. Outside mirrors should help eliminate “blind spots”.
- Navigation and communication systems, like OnStar or other global positioning systems, add a level of safety and security to an automobile.
Learn about Your Vehicle’s Safety Features
Hundreds of millions of vehicles on the roads have safety technologies – new and old – that help prevent crashes. Here are a few common questions that you may have about your current vehicle:
- How do I find out what an icon or warning means?
- How do I use these features the way they were intended?
- What other types of features are out there similar to the ones I like?
- What features should my vehicle have, and what features will be mandated in the future?
These questions and others are answered at MyCarDoesWhat.org using visuals, graphics, and animations. You can also learn about new vehicle technology by participating in an AARP Smart DriverTEK workshop.
Buying a Safe Vehicle
Whether you are shopping for a vehicle that is brand new or just new to you, consider its available features and whether they can keep you comfortable and safe. Even if you are not currently experiencing age-related changes, planning for changes now will help you remain in your vehicle should you experience them in the future. The following resources can help you shop smart:
- AAA’s Smart Features for Older Drivers website provides a variety of resources and includes an interactive checklist to help you pair your needs with smart vehicle features.
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit, scientific, and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses (fatalities, injuries, and property damage) from crashes on the nation’s highways. Visit their site to learn about your vehicle’s safety ratings.
- The Hartford’s Top Technologies for Mature Drivers: Consumer Insights lists aging drivers’ top safety technology.
- AARP’s Sleek Car vs. Safe Car bulletin highlights car design considerations.
Automated and Connected Vehicles
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is collaborating with state universities to gain a better understanding of any implications associated with planning for and integrating autonomous and connected technologies into Florida's existing infrastructure. Read the research report Enhanced Mobility for Aging Population Using Automated Vehicles and visit the Florida Connected Vehicle Initiative webpage for the latest project information.
CarFit is an educational safety program developed by the American Society on Aging in collaboration with AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association. CarFit was designed to help aging drivers improve the “fit” of their vehicles for safety and comfort. The program promotes conversations about safe driving and provides information on community-specific resources that enhance safety and increase mobility.
Attending a CarFit event is a fun and easy way for older adults to be proactive about staying safe on the road. This FREE, 20-30-minute parking lot activity uses a team of trained volunteers, including occupational therapists, to assist you with items such as:
- Proper safety belt use and fit
- The safe distance between you and your airbag
- Clear line of sight above the steering wheel
- Mirror positioning to minimize blind spots
- Accessing vehicle controls