Adaptive Aids to Keep Older Drivers Safe

Sunrise Senior Living  |  March 25, 2019
Adaptive Aids to Keep Older Drivers Safe
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For many seniors, driving represents freedom. In a time of life when an older adult might be struggling to maintain their independence, being able to drive is important. Sometimes the challenge is finding ways to drive safely.

Driving Aids That Promote Senior Driver Safety

Fortunately, there are adaptive aids that address some of the most common issues that older drivers face. From entering and exiting the vehicle to pulling the seat belt closed, here are a few devices you can explore:

  1. Mirror adaptors/extenders: A common struggle for older drivers is seeing in the rearview and side mirrors. A panoramic mirror can give a senior a broader view of their vehicle’s surroundings and blind spots. This can be especially helpful for drivers with neck and shoulder problems that make it difficult—or even painful—to rotate the upper body.
  2. Swivel seat cushions: Experts say an estimated 37,000 older adults experience a fall entering or exiting their vehicle each year. Falls remain the leading cause of serious disability for seniors. A swivel seat cushion may help lower the odds of a fall. The device is placed on the seat and designed to help an older driver safely rotate their body to slide behind the steering wheel or exit the vehicle. These cushions also give seniors a boost in height when seated. These added inches make it easier to see over the steering wheel.
  3. Seat belt extenders: Research clearly shows that seat belts can save lives if a vehicle is involved in an accident. For some older adults, however, reaching and pulling the seat belt over the shoulder is painful. It may make the senior resistant to wearing a seat belt. A seat beat extender can help. This device attaches to the seat belt, adding four to six additional inches to the belt. That makes it much easier—and less painful—for an older adult to pull the belt across their body and lock in place.
  4. Pedal extenders: Many of us have seen news stories where a senior’s foot slipped off the gas or brake pedal, causing an accident. It isn’t uncommon to lose one to three inches in height as you grow older. That can make it more difficult for an older driver to reach the pedals. A pedal extender can help. They extend the length of the pedals, which makes driving safer for seniors. Pedal extenders also keep a senior from sitting too close to the steering wheel, a danger if the car’s airbags deploy.

If you aren’t sure an older loved one is safe driving even with the help of adaptive devices, it might be time to have an honest discussion. Our article, “Talking to a Parent About Giving Up Driving,” has tips for evaluating a senior driver’s skills and talking with them about hanging up the car keys for good.