The right car can keep you comfortable and in control
Strength, flexibility and mobility, vision and scanning skills, and the rate at which we process visual information are all affected by the ageing process. These changes can present challenges on the road, making us feel less comfortable and less in control while behind the wheel.
Here are some tips to help you find the right car - even minor adjustments should make you feel more comfortable and in control of your vehicle.
A seat belt must always be worn when driving. The lap belt should go across your hips and the shoulder belt should go across your rib cage, not under your arm.
This can be a big change. To make it easier, make this change gradually over the course of a week of two.
Senior drivers should choose a vehicle based upon their specific needs
The American Automobile Association (AAA) and the National Older Driver Research & Training Centre at the University of Florida identified the features of a car that can optimise safety and comfort for senior drivers:
The driver can adjust the accelerator and brake pedals with a push of a button. This helps petite drivers reach the pedals while remaining a safe distance from the steering wheel's airbag.
Large knobs and buttons with contrasting text
Climate and audio controls with contrasting text and large features are easy to see and manipulate.
Power mirrors are easier to adjust for drivers with limited strength or arthritis.
Large or wide-angle mirrors can improve visibility for those who have difficulty turning to look to the rear when changing lanes or reversing.
Visors that extend to block glare are important for maximum visibility.
Power-operated adjustable seats
Power-operated seats require less strength to adjust. The seats should offer at least six-way adjustment: up and down, forward and backward and seatback forward and backward.
The ideal seat height is between mid-thigh and lower buttocks. Avoid cars that are low-slung or tall as they require extra strength and flexibility to get in and out of.
Low door threshold
Cars with low door thresholds, or "sills", reduce the need to lift the leg up, making it easy to get in and out.
Drivers with back pain may find heated seats improve comfort.
Lumbar support can help improve comfort for many drivers, especially those with back pain.
Cars with four doors make entry and exit easier. The doors on two-door models are typically longer and heavier, requiring more strength to open and close.
Entry which is operated by a push-button on the key fob can be good for those with arthritic hands.
Keyless ignition can be beneficial to those with who find it difficult to twist the ignition key.
Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
A steering wheel with a tilt or telescoping function can help the driver find a safe distance from the front airbag as well as a comfortable driving position.
Thick steering wheel
A thick steering wheel requires less hand strength to handle and grip.
Adjustable seat belt
Adjustable seat belts assist drivers in reaching for the seat belt and helps drivers find a comfortable position for the belt.
A good crash test rating is important for driver and occupant safety. View ANCAP crash test ratings for full details.
Adjustable head restraints
This type of restraint moves forward to cushion the head if the car is hit from behind, helping reduce neck injuries.
Brake assist helps the driver stop the car during emergency braking to prevent a collision.
ABS helps drivers remain in control by preventing the wheels from locking during hard braking.
Senior drivers especially will benefit from side airbags that protect the torso, pelvis and head.
Dual-stage or dual-threshold airbags are important for frail adults who may be injured by regular airbags that deploy too hard.
Stability control (ESC, ESP, Dynamic Stability Control etc.) helps prevent loss of control. It automatically makes quick corrections to keep the car on course, so it is particularly beneficial to senior drivers with slowed reaction times.