Driving represents independence and freedom to most adults. But finding ways to stay safe behind the wheel of a car can become more difficult as we age. If a senior in your family is struggling with a few driving issues that are common among older drivers, there might be a device that can help.
A variety of driving aids are available to assist seniors with challenges such as safely entering and exiting a vehicle or looking over the shoulder to merge on to the freeway. Here is a quick overview of some of the tools you might find helpful in your effort to keep a senior loved one safe behind the wheel of their car.
Driving Aids for Senior Drivers
While there is an ever increasing number of driving aids on the market, a few that are most useful in addressing the common struggles for senior drivers face include:
Seat Belt Pulls. We’ve probably all read about or heard the statistics that prove how important seat belts are in case of an accident. But for some seniors, reaching over their shoulder and pulling the seat belt closed can be painful. This is especially true for those with osteoarthritis or back and shoulder problems. It can lead them to avoid wearing a seat belt. A device called a Seat Beat Pull might be the solution. These driving aids act as a handle so the older adult has something to grab on to that is easier to pull. They provide an additional four to six inches of reach so the seat belt is easier to pull across the body and lock in place.
Mirror Adaptors/Extenders. Another trouble older drivers experience is difficulty seeing in the rear view and side mirrors. Panoramic mirrors can help by providing seniors with a broader and better view of their vehicle’s surroundings. And blind spot mirrors make it easier for adults who have problems turning their neck and shoulders.
Pedal Extenders. While it might seem like a myth, the idea that we shrink in height as we age is a reality for many seniors. This can make it a little tougher to reach the gas pedal and the brake. A foot pedal extender is a driving aid that can help. These devices extend the length of the pedals making it easier and safer for older adults to drive. It also helps prevent a senior from sitting too close to the steering wheel – a danger if the air bags deploy in an accident. The non-skid surface of a pedal extender also helps to decrease the risk of the senior’s foot sliding off of the pedal.
Swivel Seat Cushion. A simply designed driving aid that addresses a big safety risk for older adults is a swivel seat cushion. Seniors are at higher risk for falls when they are entering and exiting their car. This device helps the older adult safely rotate their body to slide behind the steering wheel or swivel to the side to exit the vehicle. For adults with balance problems, this device can be a lifesaver. Swivel cushions can also give seniors a boost in height when seated. These added inches make it easier to see over the steering wheel.
Senior Driving Resources
If you are concerned about an older loved one’s driving, the Mayo Clinic has a helpful website with seven safety tips for older drivers. This article from the National Institute of Aging about warning signs and how to talk with a senior driver also might be useful. We know it can be a tough topic for families to tackle and this is good information to help you get started.
Finally, AAA also has a valuable tool for senior drivers and their families. The Foundation for Safe Driving created a series of exercises older adults can perform to help improve the skills necessary for safe driving. Flexibility Fitness Training for Improving Older Driver Performance is a great resource to use.