Nearly 90% of older drivers aren’t making inexpensive adaptions to their vehicles that could improve their safety and extend their time behind the wheel, according to research from the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety.

These adaptations include pedal extensions, seat cushions, and steering wheel covers, which AAA notes could help improve older drivers’ safety by reducing their crash risk.

Seniors aged 65 and over are more than twice as likely as younger drivers to be killed when involved in a crash, suggests AAA, in a media release.

The report, which AAA is promoting in partnership with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to support Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, is the first phase in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project.

In this phase of the study, researchers investigated 12 vehicle adaptations and found that fewer than 9% of senior drivers reported using any of the devices in their vehicles. Of those drivers who have a device, almost 90% reported that they did not work with a trained professional to install the modification—a key recommendation by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the AOTA, per the release.

“When an ache or pain begins hindering driving ability, many older drivers are able to continue driving safely after making a few adjustments,” says Elin Schold Davis, project coordinator of the AOTA’s Older Driver Initiative.

“Occupational therapy practitioners trained in driving rehabilitation are especially valuable in connecting the dots between medical challenges that can affect driving and the appropriate equipment and adaptations needed to remain safely independent in the vehicle,” Davis adds.

According to the LongROAD study, more than 70% of senior drivers had experienced health conditions that impact muscles and bones such as arthritis, hip/knee replacement and joint pains. Some seniors in the study reduced their driving due to these conditions. The installation of certain devices like steering wheel covers can help lessen the impact of arthritis while larger mirrors and assistive devices on seats can help with limited neck mobility, the release explains.

“It’s surprising that more seniors are not utilizing simple and inexpensive vehicle adaptations when you consider the large number who are dealing with muscle and joint conditions,” states Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety and advocacy, in the release.

AAA and AOTA, in collaboration with the American Society on Aging and AARP, have developed CarFit a community-based program to help senior drivers better utilize the features and technologies in their vehicles. As part of the program, trained professionals conduct a 12-point check of a senior’s personal vehicle and make recommendations for needed adjustments or adaptations.

AAA also offers the Smart Features for Older Drivers tool, which can help senior drivers identify inexpensive devices and vehicle features that optimize their comfort and safety, the release continues.

[Source(s): AAA, PR Newswire]