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Cars don’t fit seniors’ needs

By Tara Baukus Mello ·
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Almost 90 percent of senior drivers are driving cars that don’t meet their needs for health, safety and comfort, according to a new report by AAA. The study found that drivers older than 65 commonly have decreased flexibility and muscle strength, limited range of upper-body motion and diminished vision, and that while many cars have features that can help senior drivers compensate for these issues, they aren’t driving them.

AAA has issued a variety of recommendations in its "Smart Features for Older Drivers" guide including:

  • Seat heights that are higher off the car's floor or can be adjusted so they are at least as high as the driver's mid-thigh when standing for easier entry and exit in the car.
  • Power seats that adjust six ways or more to help with hip, knee or leg problems or decreased leg strength.
  • Keyless entry and push-button start as well as thicker steering wheels for drivers with reduced grip strength in their hands.
  • Power mirrors and dashboard controls with buttons for drivers who have trouble with twisting or turning motions with their hands.
  • Larger displays with contrasting text for those with diminished vision.

Many of today's cars come standard with these features and don't require purchasing a higher-priced car, which is helpful for those who are taking on an auto loan. By looking for a car equipped with features such as these, it can lengthen the amount of time senior drivers can maintain their freedom safely and comfortably.

If you're a senior, do you have trouble driving your car? Would these suggested features help with your driving?

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.
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Bill broumas
January 03, 2013 at 7:57 am

They should make children and pedestrians larger for older drivers who have trouble seeing them.

Rhoda Gilmer
January 03, 2013 at 7:27 am

We like to take long road trips. Most cars today do not have a comfortable backseat where we can take a nap if we get road fatique. Sitting up in those little buckets just doesn't do it.

January 03, 2013 at 7:21 am

"Buzzers," to alert a driver when turn signals are still on - should be mandatory in all cars!
Too many times the A/C, Heater, or Radio, block the sound of a signal that is still on!

Patty Powell
January 03, 2013 at 5:25 am

I agree with all of the suggestions except one. The last one that the article mentioned, larger text for those with diminished vision. I'm sorry, but if your vision is not correctable and it is diminished, you should not be driving anymore. @ Janet - that is why I drive a Chevy HHR. It is made for us short people. The seats are just right. You can move the seat, not only forward and backward, but up and down, and they also tilt. Yet, friends who are tall (over 6 feet) have no problem getting into my car. There is plenty of head room for them.

Deborah Joyce
January 03, 2013 at 4:53 am

I would suggest swivel seats so that the driver and passengers can exit the car more easily. Of course the seats would lock tightly into place once in the car and while exiting.

Deborah Pierce
January 03, 2013 at 2:46 am

I have physical disabilities that make entering, exiting, and riding in a car a challenge. Some things I would like to see in a car would be:
high enough off ground that you would not be in a squatting position when getting out of car

more knee room and foot room for orthodic shoes that are built up and awkward

no high console between seats for ease in entering and exiting---they make it hard to get seated and exit----also miserable for heavy passengers

multiple grab bars

front seats that could be moved further back from the dash to make it easier for people with arthritic knees and hips that can't be folded back far enough to enter a car without being in pain

We have found that a Honda Oddesey comes closer to meeting these needs than any other car. It seems that only vans seem to work for people like me which is nice but we would love to see these qualities in a sedan so we could have more choices and not have
to purchase a car that is bigger and more expensive than what we really need at this point in our lives.

Do car manufacturers ever meet with people with disabilities and truly listen to their needs for comfort in a car? I would love to be contacted and have the opportunity to give my input.

Thank you

January 03, 2013 at 2:26 am

I just wish the door openings at the bottom of the door were wider. It's hard for me to get my knee to bend enough to get my right foot in or out.

alfred b jones
January 03, 2013 at 1:58 am

lane drifting warning, easy controls for radio & hvac,rear back up camera

Seniors don’t fit cars needs
January 03, 2013 at 1:24 am

Cars require you to have flexibility and muscle strength, range of upper-body motion and vision.

and while many cars have features that can help senior drivers compensate for these issues, they probably still shouldn't be driving them

Janet Stevens
January 02, 2013 at 11:26 pm

I find that the head piece above the seat is placed in such a manner that a short person such as I will have a broken neck should I be in an accident. I have most of the features listed but if the details were listed in the center like my old chevy, a passenger in the car could help with settings and details.