Older people face unique challenges when it comes to driving. While they may not lose their ability to drive altogether, mature drivers may begin to develop limitations that can significantly affect their driving capabilities.
Most people may not consider that certain kinds of cars better suit the needs of mature drivers. Bigger vehicles like SUVs, vans, and trucks aren’t ideal for older drivers because they’re more difficult to enter and exit. A car’s features may also have an impact on a person’s driving ability.
There are several things to consider when it comes to choosing the right vehicle for a mature driver.
Factors Affecting Driving Ability
Certain consequences of aging can have a profound impact a person’s ability to drive. Some of these consequences may affect:
- Height. It’s common knowledge that people become shorter as they grow older. This is because the cartilage in the spine wears down over time, causing the spine to lose some of its length. Health conditions such as osteoporosis may also play a role in this process. This can affect an older person’s ability to get in and out of their vehicle.
- Visibility. As people get older, they often lose some degree of visibility and may begin to lose their sight altogether. Diminishing or full loss of visibility can have a significant effect on depth perception, which is important when driving. Therefore, most states require more frequent eye tests for older drivers.
- Hearing. Older drivers may have a harder time hearing so automatic braking, collision systems, and rear cameras can help them avoid accidents.
- Mental health. Certain mental health conditions such as epilepsy and the onset of Alzheimer’s may inhibit a person’s ability to drive.
Fortunately, the percentage of accidents by older drivers has decreased in recent years, partially due to the new and improved automobile features which help protect mature drivers on the road.
Accommodations for Older Drivers
Many modern cars include important features that address the unique challenges mature drivers must overcome when driving. Some of these may come standard for many vehicles, while others can be purchased via upgrades. They might include:
- Adjustable seats and mirrors
- Adjustable gas and brake pedals
- Rear and side cameras to assist with reversing and turning
- Additional convex side mirrors
- Vocal alarms
- Hands-free radio and controls
- Automatic braking
- Collision prevention systems
Best Cars for Older Drivers
The best kinds of cars for older drivers are smaller sedans or crossover vehicles. Mature drivers can enter and exit these kinds of cars more easily than an SUV or van. Even so, older drivers may prefer an SUV or van, so we’ve taken care to include one of each on our list.
- Kia Soul. The Kia Soul combines the roominess of an SUV with the compactness of a sedan for a reasonable price. Foldable backseats provide even more room for storage. Its large doors and seats provide extra accessibility for older drivers. The upgraded version of the Soul also incorporates modern features such as hands-free Bluetooth. A heated steering wheel and Sirius satellite radio are just a couple of the Soul’s extra bells and whistles.
- Eighth Generation Honda Accord. The Honda Accord has become a household name. The Honda Accord has always been a reliable vehicle that can stay on the road for a couple of decades or longer, and the eighth generation is no exception. Different models of the Honda Accord in this generation include different features, including navigation systems, hands-free Bluetooth, cruise control, increased stability control, and keyless entry.
- Third Generation Toyota Avalon. Much like the Accord, the Toyota Avalon has made a name for itself as a reliable vehicle. Using audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, older drivers can control the radio without having to take their eyes off the road. The Limited version of the Avalon also includes a seat cushion length adjuster, helping shorter older drivers gain more control over the position of their seat.
- Fourth Generation Subaru Forester. For those looking for a smaller SUV, any of the fourth generation Foresters are a great option. The wide windshield offers maximum visibility and reduces blind spots. All-wheel drive gives drivers better control of the car and added traction. Newer models also include enhanced safety features as part of Subaru’s EyeSight, such as lane departure and collision alarms. The Forester is fuel-efficient and quiet, which makes it perfect for those who are hard of hearing.
- Honda Odyssey. For older drivers who need a minivan to cart around the grandkids, the Honda Odyssey is an excellent choice. With wide doors, roomy seats, and low floors, the Odyssey makes for a highly accessible and comfortable daily driver. Mature drivers can get in and out of the van easily without having to balance on a step. The Odyssey is also fuel efficient, making it perfect for older drivers on a fixed income.
- Volvo XC60. The Volvo XC60 is a crossover vehicle, which is the perfect option for those looking for something bigger than a car but smaller than an SUV. Standard features of the XC60 include automatic braking and collision response systems. When the Volvo approaches another vehicle too closely or quickly, an alarm will sound. If the driver doesn’t respond to the alarm, the Volvo will stop itself. This Volvo model is a little pricier than some of the other cars included on our list, but the extra safety features are definitely worth the money.
- Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Easily the priciest vehicle on our list, the Mercedes E-Class comes loaded with valuable features for older drivers. The key standard feature of the E-Class is the Attention Assist. This technology incorporates sensors that can pick up on signs of drowsy driving. When this happens, an alarm will sound and a light on the dashboard resembling a coffee cup will turn on. The Mercedes E-Class comes with a hefty price tag, but it’s definitely a stylish set of wheels that will protect older drivers who are particularly prone to falling asleep at the wheel.