AAA helps aging drivers match vehicle selections to physical changes

Jan. 1, 2020
AAA's Smart Features for Mature Drivers identifies vehicle features that can assist drivers with visual, physical and mental changes that are frequently encountered with age. AAA, in partnership with the University of Florida's National Older Driver
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AAA, in partnership with the University of Florida’s National Older Driver Research and Training Center (NODRTC), released its Smart Features for Mature Drivers at the New York International Auto Show.

AAA’s Smart Features for Mature Drivers identifies vehicle features that can assist drivers with visual, physical and mental changes that are frequently encountered as they age. The announcement addresses conditions often faced by senior adults, including diminished vision, arthritic hands, hip and leg pain and limited upper-body range of motion. The program highlights features that best address each condition and provides examples of vehicles exemplifying those features.

 “It is imperative that the specific needs of aging motorists be addressed in order for them to continue to drive safely and remain independent,” says AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “Smart Features for Mature Drivers provides valuable information for this growing segment of the driving population. We encourage older drivers and their families to use this as a guide in the selection of their next vehicle or evaluating their current one.”

People older than 65 represent a fast growing population segment in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were more than 37 million people ages 65 and older in the United States in 2006, and 29 million were licensed drivers in 2005. It is estimated that by 2020 there will be more than 40 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older.

As a person ages, physiological changes can affect driving ability. Muscle strength, reaction times, range of motion and visual acuity tend to diminish as part of the natural aging process, according to information released in conjunction with the announcement. Also, the increased prevalence of health issues such as arthritis, hip and knee joint pain or osteoporosis can reduce the ability to safely execute the complex task of driving.

“Many of the changes our bodies experience as we age can affect our ability to safely operate a vehicle,” says Dennis P. McCarthy, co-director of the University of Florida’s NODRTC. “When looking for ways to help maintain an older person’s safety, it’s important to address the vehicle they are driving. Today, specific vehicle features can help improve driver comfort and safety.”

Some of the recommendations included in Smart Features for Mature Drivers include:
• Six-way adjustable power seats and seat heights that come between the driver’s mid-thigh and lower buttocks. Both of these features can make it easier for drivers to enter and exit a vehicle.
• Four-door models with thick steering wheels, keyless entry and ignition, power mirrors and seats and larger dashboard controls.
• Extendable sun visors, large audio and climate control displays with contrasting text.
• High crash test and rollover ratings from the NHTSA ( and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (
• Side airbags and dual-stage airbags that adjust the deployment force based on the severity of the crash.
• Adjustable head restraints and extra padding.
• Antilock brakes
• Dynamic stability control

“AAA is committed to keeping seniors driving as long as safely possible through our Lifelong Safe Mobility initiative,” Darbelnet adds. “By providing public services such as Smart Features for Mature Drivers, AAA aims to keep our growing senior population safe behind the wheel.”

Concurrent to the release of Smart Features for Mature Drivers, AAA launched a Web site with content devoted to senior drivers and their families at  

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