Through Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, held this year the first week of December, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) strives to help older drivers retain their independence through driving, gain confidence in their driving abilities and exercise safe driving behaviors.
"As part of the aging process, some people experience physical, cognitive and sensory changes that can affect driving," said Elin Schold Davis, OTR/L, CDRS. "But these changes don't have to mean giving up the keys. Through an evaluation, drivers can get solutions such as driving equipment and adaptations that allow them to stay on the road safely and confidently. If driving is no longer an option, an occupational therapist can provide individualized services to maintain community mobility and independence."
AOTA celebrates Older Driver Safety Awareness Week with the following resources on different aspects of older driver safety:
- Monday, Dec. 3: Identifying Changes That Can Affect Driving
- Tuesday, Dec. 4: Family Conversations
- Wednesday, Dec. 5: Screening and Evaluations With an Occupational Therapist
- Thursday, Dec. 6: Equipment That Can Empower Drivers
- Friday, Dec. 7: Taking Changes in Stride
Older Driver Safety Awareness Week national endorsers, including AOTA, AAA, AARP, and The Hartford, also have dedicated Web sites providing public and health professionals with useful, timely information.
10 Technologies for Older Drivers
To instill confidence and help drivers understand which modern technologies can enhance safe driving, The Hartford and MIT AgeLab, along with a panel of leading experts in driving, aging and technology, recently identified the top 10 car technologies that benefit mature drivers:
- Smart headlights adjust the range and intensity of light based on the distance of traffic and to reduce glare and improve night vision.
- Emergency response systems offer quick assistance to drivers in the case of a medical emergency or collision, often allowing emergency personnel to get to the scene more quickly.
- Reverse monitoring systems warn of objects to the rear of the vehicle to help drivers judge distances and back up safely, and helps drivers with reduced flexibility.
- Blind spot warning systems warn drivers of objects in blind spots, especially while changing lanes and parking, and helps those with limited range of motion.
- Lane departure warning monitors the vehicle's position and warns the driver if the vehicle deviates outside the lane, helping drivers stay in their lane.
- Vehicle stability control helps to automatically bring the vehicle back in the intended line of travel, particularly in situations where the driver underestimates the angle of a curve or experiences weather effects, and reduces the likelihood of a crash.
- Assistive parking systems enable vehicles to park on their own or indicates distance to objects, reducing driver stress, making parking easier, and increasing the places a driver can park.
- Voice activated systems allow drivers to access features by voice command so they can stay focused on the road.
- Crash mitigation systems detect when the vehicle may be in danger of a collision and can help minimize injuries to passengers.
- Drowsy driver alerts monitor the degree to which a driver may be inattentive while on the road and helps alert drivers to the driving task.
"Since drivers over the age of 50 are more likely than any other age group to purchase the types of vehicles that contain modern technologies, we set out to identify the top ten features that mature drivers should consider," said Jodi Olshevski, gerontologist at The Hartford. "While older drivers as a group are relatively safe, these technologies can help to enhance their abilities and promote safe driving for a lifetime."