Advanced auto technologies and safe driving habits can help older motorists remain behind the wheel longer, say two new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety studies, released Dec. 8 to mark Older Driver Safety Awareness Week this week.
New in-car technologies such as navigation assistance, forward collision warnings, and back-up cameras will considerably reduce the potential for crashes among drivers 65 years of age and older on the road.
Couple these technologies with good-driving strategies and seniors will greatly minimize their driving risk on roadways, the studies conclude.
Why is this important? Because today, there are a record 36 million adult drivers over 65 years of age on the road and that number is expected to increase substantially over the next decade. In addition, it’s been discovered that senior drivers, who do give up their keys are nearly two times more likely to experience depression and five times more likely to enter a long-term care facility.
In one study, Keeping Older Adults Driving Safely: A Research Synthesis of Advanced In-Vehicle Technologies, researchers examined 16 advanced vehicle technologies and determined six provided high value for older adults by potentially reducing crashes and improving the ease and comfort of driving:
- Forward collision warnings systems help prevent crashes by warning drivers of a potential collision or by automatically applying the brakes. For older drivers, this technology can improve reaction times and reduce crashes by up to 20%.
- Automatic crash notification systems alert emergency services if a crash occurs. Older drivers are more likely to suffer from a crash’s serious effects because of their age, which means these systems can provide a greater safety benefit to seniors.
- Park assist with rearview display technology includes backup cameras and obstacle-detection warning systems. These can prevent crashes when pulling out of a parking space.
- Parking assist with cross-traffic warning systems use radar sensor technology to notify drivers of crossing vehicles when backing out of parking spaces. In some vehicles, the systems automatically apply the brakes to prevent a collision.
- Semi-autonomous parking assistance systems take over steering while moving into a parallel parking space, which can reduce stress and make parking easier for older drivers.
- Navigation assistance systems, which offer turn-by-turn GPS navigation systems provides older drivers with increased feelings of safety, confidence, attentiveness and relaxation. This, in turn, can help seniors remain focused on the road and comfortable behind the wheel.
By coupling these technologies with good driving strategies, older adults can further extend their driving career. In the second study, Self-Regulation of Driving by Older Drivers, reported that such strategies as avoiding challenging roadway situations, such as driving at night, in bad weather, during rush-hour traffic, in unfamiliar areas or on the highway. They also include avoiding potentially distracting behaviors, such as talking on a cell phone, texting, eating, smoking or grooming in the car; or simply reducing speed and limiting lane changes.
To help seniors choose the right vehicle, AAA has updated its Smart Features for Older Drivers tool to include 2015 makes and models, a resource that helps seniors identify vehicles with these safety features. That brochure and other comprehensive information on senior driving are available at SeniorDriving.AAA.com.
AAA Northeast, which covers Fairfield, Litchfield, and New Haven Counties also offers in-classroom and on-line driver improvement classes where older drivers learn how to manage risk, and discuss up-to-date driving techniques. There is a charge for the online class; however classroom training is available free to members and non-members. Visit www.aaa.com/driverimprovement and link to “Connecticut” for a list of dates, times and registration directions. There also is a link to the online defensive driving class on that page.
AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 61 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York providing more than 5.2 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.