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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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walt mcdonald
January 03, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Warning to ALL Seniors! The dogooders are coming after you. They have floated various restrictions on Senior drivers for a number of years. This is a future crusade for them. Annual testing, Dr. Certifications, and outright banning everyone over a certain age! The lost the SUV battle because they are the safest on the road and Women love them. Watch and be ready for a political fight.

January 03, 2013 at 11:44 am

Even though you might feel strange driving it, the Nissan Cube is very comfortable. I am 60 and have back issues, and had this as a rental. I was very surprised that the seat height made you feel that you were just sitting in a regular chair. It felt like being in a larger vehicle in a smaller package(at 5'3" climbing into a van or SUV is mountain climbing)and it had good visability with a nice big windshield. I keep trying to get my husband to go look at to get him passed the "Cat In the Hat" look of the car.

John D.
January 03, 2013 at 11:02 am

I'm 52 years old and while still pretty agile, I do have a bad back.

I like four-door cars, but have found that most of them today are very hard for me to get in and out of.

It seems to me that most four-door cars these days feel like you have to parachute into them, then climb out of them as if you are mountain climbing.

I have a large four-wheel drive truck and a two-door car (2010 Chevy Cobalt) that I have no issues getting in and out of.

My wife's car (a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta)is great for her (she is 5'11", as am I), but I usually only drive it when it needs a car wash!

It is a wonderful vehicle, but I just can't get used to 'falling' into the drivers seat of her car.

January 03, 2013 at 10:47 am

I have two knee replacements, a bad lower back. I have been disabled since 95. I drive a 2003 Dodge truck with 207 thousand miles even though my wife drives a 05 Buick Rendezvous.My PTSD gets to me when I am even just sitting in it let alone driving . The truck is high, I can see out and feel safer. If I get something newer it will be high,wide even with manual seats I can get in and out

Bob Muti
January 03, 2013 at 10:27 am

Higher seats are important. When getting out of a car/ssuv, your hips should be higher, much higher, then your knees, so that your 3/4 standing up when you swing your legs out of the car.

Karen Clark
January 03, 2013 at 9:52 am

It is ludicrous that all seniors are lumped together once they are in their sixties. I am 66 and the best of health and very fortunate. I own a new 2013 Hyundai Elantra. I do agree that some modifications are needed. But, do as I did for my Mom, I put a secure cushion on her passenger seat for easy in and out. She used a cane, then walker, then wheelchair. You can put on a mirror that extends wider and magnifies.

January 03, 2013 at 9:22 am

I am a senior driver with none of the issues stated above. I think it's ridiculous that car manufacturers need to alter the way they design cars just for the old folks. If they have issues, maybe they shouldn't be driving. If they are too comfortable, they'd probably fall asleep at the wheel. I have seen way too many senior citizens who should NOT be on the road. There is much talk about unsafe teen driving. How about those who not only have the physical limitations suggested above, but also have decreased reflex time. Don't make it easier to keep them on the road longer. PLEASE!

Mary A Burke
January 03, 2013 at 9:16 am

I'm a senior citizen, 69 yrs old and have diminished vision. I always buy Toyota's. My previous car was a Camry and I could never read the front digital display during day time hours. Now, I have a Venza and I can't read the digital displays on the larger LCD screen, during day time hours, even though they tried to work with the contrast for me. It really is aggravating. I just feel that they can do a better job for daytime reading on LCD screens. Night time is fine - no problem.

Mike Hanslip
January 03, 2013 at 9:08 am

I am a white male, 66, and use a cane. Most cars on the market are not conducive to enter and exit for me which limits most olde people from buying most cars. I welcome any changes where the height of the seats on ALL cars can be adjusted!

January 03, 2013 at 8:20 am

Remember with any luck you all will become senior drivers one day.