Adaptive tools can make driving easier for seniors

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published December 6, 2017

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METRO DETROIT — The ability to continue driving is a source of independence and happiness for many older adults. 

And in light of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week lasting from Dec. 4 to 8 this year, a couple of organizations are announcing that there are steps that seniors — particularly those 65 and older — can take to acclimate their vehicles for safer driving.

AAA Public Affairs Specialist Gary Bubar said that while aging can bring physical, vision or cognitive changes, AAA’s goal is to keep drivers on the road for as long as they can operate their vehicles safely.

“In that realm, we’ve got more people that are going to be over the age of 65 than we’ve ever had before, and with that, there are going to be some changes that occur to all of us,” he said. “And so we need to make some changes in order to keep ourselves and everyone else on the road safe.” 

AAA says that around 90 percent of older drivers don’t take advantage of tools and options to make it possible for them to drive more safely. Many of these adaptations are designed to circumvent certain pain or mobility issues. 

According to the auto agency, seat cushions or pads can ease back or hip problems and make it easier to see over the wheel. Steering wheel covers can make the wheel easier to grip for people with arthritis. Pedal extensions can make it possible to drive while keeping enough clearance from the steering wheel’s airbag. 

Convex or multifaceted mirrors can make it easier for people to view surroundings while reducing blind spots, AAA added. Hand controls may also be installed to let the motorist control the vehicle without needing to use his or her legs.

When installing such devices, a driver should work with a trained professional or technician, Bubar said.

Over at the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, mobility project manager Roberta Habowski said some companies make vehicle add-ons such as wheelchair or scooter lifts, swiveling seats that allow easier entry or exit, or handles that offer more stability when stepping in or out. 

Habowski said that while her agency doesn’t get many direct requests for these kind of add-ons, she said she talks about them when giving presentations on driver safety for older adults.

“If people see an occupational therapist for driving, they will have suggestions also,” she added. 

Find out more about AAA Michigan by visiting www.michigan.aaa.com. For more about the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, visit www.aaa1b.org or call (248) 357-2255.

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