Aging affects driving. There are no ifs ands or buts about it. As drivers lucky enough to enter the later decades of life, we must understand and accept the fact that the time will probably arrive when we become too old to drive safely.
Lots of things about driving get more challenging in later life. Steering and maneuvering the car can become more difficult, as can using the gas pedal, stepping on the brake, and checking rearview mirrors. Even getting in and out of the car can be tough.
Fortunately, there are steps that may extend the ability to drive safely for some folks. Professionals now specialize in helping older people drive safely and comfortably longer. In fact, many occupational therapists are trained and certified in driving rehabilitation. They help drivers adjust to the challenges of aging that may impact their ability to drive comfortably and safely. They also are able to recommend equipment and car adaptations to help individuals deal with the specific aging challenges each person faces, and they offer instruction on how to use the equipment.
Below are a few of the adaptive car gadgets available to help aging drivers. This equipment should only be installed in a car by a trained professional who knows how to do so correctly and safely. Never use a car adaptation that could impact your safety or the safety of others without first speaking with your doctor and/or an occupational therapist that specializes in driving rehab.
Swivel seats: Most cars are not built with thoughts about older folks maneuvering themselves in and out of the vehicle. At a certain age, it is no longer possible to simply hop in and out of the driver’s seat. In fact, driving-related falls are quite common. With a swivel seat cushion, you just lean back on to the driver’s seat and use the cushion to turn to the driving position.
Seat pads: Aging affects posture and height. Seat pads provide a boost that offers a better line of sight as well as welcome support for an aging body.
Enhanced rearview mirrors: Older drivers can find it difficult… if not completely impossible… to turn far enough to check out blind spots when driving. Mirrors are available that provide a much wider view than traditional rearview mirrors. They make it possible to see a lot more without having to turn the neck and head very far. They also are designed to minimize blind spots.
Seat belt extensions: Drivers of all ages find it a real pain to have to reach up and back to grab and pull down their seat belts. For older drivers, the task can be especially hard. A seat belt extension reduces the distance you have to reach to grab the belt and makes it easier to grasp and pull too.
Pedal extenders: Reaching a car’s pedals can be a challenge for older folks, especially those with bone, joint, and/or nerve issues. The answer is not to move the driver’s seat forward, because that can put the driver too close to the steering wheel and air bag, which can cause severe injuries even during minor accidents. Pedal extenders reduce the space a driver’s foot has to reach to meet the pedal while maintaining a safe distance from the steering wheel.