The topic of senior citizens driving is a very delicate one, with opinions that are extremely divided amongst people who think elders pose a risk behind the wheel and others believing that everyone should be allowed to drive as long as they’ve earned their license. However, we have technology to thank for the way in which older drivers’ safety can be improved.
Understanding the Issue
About 90 percent of the people who are above the age of 65 and own a driver’s licence have a health-related problem. Most of these affect a person’s driving abilities. When mobility is limited, it also takes a toll on a person’s mental health, which is why a lot of elders associate driving with a sense of independence. In fact, it is believed that elders that give up driving are twice as likely to fall prey to depression.
Naturally, there is now more awareness around the idea that seniors need to take care of mental health, and technological innovations are looking to add to some of that driver’s safety that’s needed for this particular age category. There are plenty of groups that want to make sure elder people’s needs are met.
There are three main vehicle feature categories that require attention if we want to make sure our seniors are safe when driving: comfort, ergonomics, and safety.
What Are ADAS?
Short for advanced driver assistance systems, ADAS are all technological innovations that are designed to improve the driver’s safety. These don’t just address senior citizens, as they can aid plenty of younger drivers and make sure they have less chances of being involved in an accident.
What’s interesting is that research has shown that people who drive cars equipped with ADAS aren’t that aware of the limitations that come together with having these systems. For instance, 80 percent of the people who drive cars equipped with blind spot monitoring systems were under the false impression that this type of technology is capable of accurately identifying high-speed vehicles or pedestrians passing by. In fact, the role of this system is to identify vehicles located in the driver’s blind spot and it isn’t that efficient against cyclists or pedestrians.
Even with all these technologies that are designed to improve safety behind the wheel for all age categories, it is very important to understand what each system does and what are its limitations for one to be truly safe.
Evidence suggests that when drivers correctly identify these limitations and know exactly what each ADAS does, they have 40 percent less chances of avoiding a traffic accident. This means that elders and younger people alike still need more education when it comes to car technology designed for safety improvement.
Recommended Safety Features
There are active safety systems which are focused on improving viewing angles that could help seniors get a better sense of their surrounding environment when they’re behind the wheel. Some of these recommended features include:
- Adaptive headlight that will turn together with the direction of the steering wheel. There are plenty of vehicles that are already equipped with this feature (like the Mazda 3, for example). This feature will help seniors get a better vision of the road ahead when taking a turn.
- Blind spot warning technology is designed to signal drivers when cars found in adjoining lanes are located in the vehicle’s blind spot. Some of the cars that are already equipped with this type of technology include a variety of Mercedes Benz models and certain Mazda 3 versions.
- 360-degree camera systems act like a “see it all” eye that provides full vision around the vehicle. This makes it useful for seniors to park their cars.
- EAB (which is short for emergency autonomous braking) technology is a relatively new concept, but multiple car makers have agreed to add this to passenger vehicles across the US as soon as possible. This smart technology will slow down or completely stop the vehicle if it detects an imminent impact. There is now a strong belief that most cars should be equipped with such a system, regardless of who is driving it. In a lot of cases, it could make the difference between life and death. There are a few cars on the market that are already equipped with automatic emergency braking, such as the Toyota Camry, the Buick Encore, or the Hyundai Sonata.
Comfort & Ergonomics
Alongside safety, comfort and ergonomics are the other two aspects that are designed to make sure elders are safe and reassured when driving. For younger people, these are mostly matters of comfort, but they can go a long way in helping seniors make sure they don’t put their own lives and the lives of others at risk.
Some of the ergonomic features that are slowly turning into a must-have in vehicles driven by older citizens include adjustable steering wheels, cooled/heated seats, and adjustable pedals. All of these features and many others are focused on improving well-being conditions inside the car, making sure that discomfort and fatigue will not interfere with respecting driving laws and rules.
When it comes to convenience features, elder citizens could use features such as contactless ignition (which eliminates the stress of putting the keys in the ignition) or integrated GPS systems that will reduce the number of elders getting lost in traffic. Some cars are even equipped with display panels that showcase information that’s really important when driving, gathering all important info in one place.
The role of these features is to ensure that all car-related activities are smooth and less time-consuming, preventing elders from having to struggle with things that younger people would otherwise see through quickly (like closing the trunk of the car, for example).
As you can see, we can still do a lot more to make sure that elders still get to enjoy the perks and independent feeling you get when you’re allowed to drive a car. It’s important to care for the mental health of seniors in our society and making sure they don’t pose a threat to themselves and others while driving is part of the process.