As you settle into your hard-earned retirement, you know that the only thought more terrifying that being involved in a car accident is being the one who caused it. While failing eyesight or poor hearing can certainly be the cause of a crash, the truth is that your accident may simply be caused by your grandson using the car earlier in the day.
Researchers at the American Society on Aging have discovered that the proper “fit” of a car is crucial for the safety of the driver and passengers. The society collaborated with AAA to develop a senior driver checklist to ensure vehicle fit for elderly drivers--a group at risk of both causing and suffering from car accidents.
These six simple adjustments can help protect older drivers from car accident injuries:
- Seats and mirrors. If other drivers use your car, you should make sure to adjust the seat height, side and rear view mirrors, and seat tilt to make sure you can drive clearly and comfortably. Even if you are the only driver, remember that car mechanics and valets may also adjust your controls, so it is worth checking your positioning before each trip.
- Head and chest. Adjust the tilt of the steering wheel so that the wheel is high enough to give your legs free movement, but low enough that you can see the dashboard readings and the road ahead. Sit back in the seat and allow 10 inches between your chest and the center of the steering wheel to avoid airbag injuries. Finally, make sure your head restraint is positioned properly to provide support to your neck and back of your head if you are struck from behind.
- Gas and brakes. You should be sitting comfortably enough to move your foot easily between the gas and brake pedals. Your right heel should rest on the floor in a way that allows you to reach and press the gas pedal without straining the muscles in your leg or tiring your ankle. You should also be able to depress the brake to bring the car to a full stop without extreme effort.
- Neck movements. Drivers often have to turn their heads to check for vehicles in their blind spots, something older drivers may have difficulty doing. Make sure you can comfortably turn your head, neck, and torso to check beside the car before changing lanes. If you cannot, you may wish to invest in additional mirrors that can show you your blind spots without having to turn your head.
- Hands and fingers. Drivers with arthritis, diabetes, or other conditions may have difficulty turning the key in the ignition or pressing buttons on the vehicle control panel. Still more drivers may not have the grip strength to pull the emergency brake.
- Buckle up. Seat belts can help prevent and mitigate the effects of a crash, so always make sure your seat belt is securely fastened across the hips and over the shoulder before taking off.
Senior Drivers Often Don’t Know There Are Options to Improve Their Safety
Many older drivers are afraid to mention any trouble they have while driving, as they do not want family members to be concerned (or take away their keys). Please feel free to share these tips with friends and family on Facebook or via email to keep your loved ones safe on the road. You never know who you will inspire to make a change for the better!