The right car for you

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.

Stay safe and comfortable on the road

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.

Seat

  • You should be able to reach the centre of the brake and accelerator pedals with the ball of your foot 
  • Your chest should be at least 25 - 30 cm (11 inches) from the steering wheel's centre
  • The seat should be high enough for your line of sight to be three inches above the steering wheel.

Seat belt

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.

Head restraint

  • The top of the head restraint must be as high as the top of your head 
  • Position the head restraint as close to the rear of your head as possible 
  • It must touch the middle of your head, not your neck 
  • A properly adjusted head restraint will help prevent whiplash by reducing the distance between the back of the head and head restraint, stopping the neck from bending back. It will also reduce the amount of time it takes your head to initially contact the head restraint, and increase the amount of time that your head is supported during a crash.

Mirrors

  • Before you start the car, adjust your rear-view mirror. Make sure you can see as much of the rear window as possible. 
  • For the mirror on the driver's side:
    1. Place your head against the driver's side window 
    2. Adjust the side mirror on your right so you just see the side of the car.
  • For the mirror on the passenger's side:
    1. Move your head to the centre of your car under the rear-view mirror 
    2. Adjust the passenger side mirror so you just see the side of your car

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:

Adjustable pedals
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
Power mirrors are easier to adjust for drivers with limited strength or arthritis.

Large/wide-angle mirrors
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
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.

Seat height
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.

Heated Seats
Drivers with back pain may find heated seats improve comfort.

Lumbar Support
Lumbar support can help improve comfort for many drivers, especially those with back pain.

Four doors
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.

Keyless entry
Entry which is operated by a push-button on the key fob can be good for those with arthritic hands.

Keyless ignition
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.

Proven crashworthiness
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
Brake assist helps the driver stop the car during emergency braking to prevent a collision.

Anti-lock brakes
ABS helps drivers remain in control by preventing the wheels from locking during hard braking.

Side/side-curtain airbags
Senior drivers especially will benefit from side airbags that protect the torso, pelvis and head.

Dual-stage/dual-threshold airbags
Dual-stage or dual-threshold airbags are important for frail adults who may be injured by regular airbags that deploy too hard.

Stability-control
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.

 

Book a driving lesson with NRMA Safer Driving School