Older Drivers

Making Your Vehicle Safe

Common Safety Features

The vehicle, as well as the driver, should be safe. Many newer vehicles have up-to-date safety and comfort features, such as

  • front and side airbags to protect car occupants in a crash
  • properly adjusted head restraint systems to protect against neck injuries
  • electronic stability control for crash avoidance
  • power steering
  • adjustable seats, which help shorter drivers sit high enough to see the road well
  • bigger, brighter displays on the dashboard
  • large, glare–proof mirrors, or light-sensitive mirrors that darken automatically to reduce headlight glare
  • wide-angle rear–view mirrors and convex side mirrors — these may help drivers with neck problems, but they distort distances and take getting used to
  • a steering wheel that tilts up or down and moves closer to or farther from the driver’s chest — this helps drivers sit safely and comfortably no more than 10 inches from the steering wheel.

For more information about vehicle safety and recalls, see www.safercar.gov

In an Emergency

Even a well-maintained vehicle can break down. Put together an emergency roadside kit to carry with you. A cell phone is especially important. Here are suggested emergency roadside kit contents.

  • cell phone
  • first aid kit
  • flashlight
  • flares and a white flag
  • jumper cables
  • jack (and ground mat) for changing a tire
  • work gloves and a change of clothes
  • basic repair tools and some duct tape (for temporarily repairing a hose leak!)
  • a jug of water and paper towels for cleaning up
  • nonperishable food, drinking water, and medicines
  • extra windshield washer fluid
  • maps

Adaptive Equipment

People with permanent disabilities can benefit from special equipment in their cars. Such “adaptive” equipment helps drivers who have lost strength or flexibility due to an injury, stroke, or another health condition. Some people can modify the vehicle they already own, while others buy new vehicles.

Adaptive equipment includes pedal extenders, steering wheel knobs, and hand controls for the gas pedal and brake. A driver rehabilitation specialist can assess your situation, recommend the proper equipment, and tell you where to get it installed. This specialist can also teach you how to drive your newly equipped vehicle.

The cost of adaptive equipment depends on specific vehicle modifications. A state vocational services agency or nonprofit that assists people with disabilities may pay part of the cost. Also, most car manufacturers offer rebates on adaptive equipment when you buy a vehicle less than 1 year old.

For more information about adaptive equipment, see Adapting Motor Vehicles for Older Drivers from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration.