Lynn Shaw, Jan Miller Polgar, Brenda Vrkljan, Jill Jacobson; Seniors’ Perceptions of Vehicle Safety Risks and Needs. Am J Occup Ther 2010;64(2):215-224. doi: 10.5014/ajot.64.2.215.
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© 2019 American Occupational Therapy Association
The investigation of vehicle safety needs for older drivers and passengers is integral for their safe transportation. A program of research on safe transportation for seniors was launched through AUTO21, a Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence. This national research network focuses on a wide range of automotive issues, from materials and design to safety and societal issues. An inductive qualitative inquiry of seniors’ driving experiences, safety feature use, and strategies to prevent injury and manage risks was a first step in this program. We conducted interviews and focus groups with 58 seniors without disabilities and 9 seniors with disabilities. We identified a lack of congruity between the vehicle and safety feature design and seniors’ needs. Seniors described strategies to manage their safety and that of others. Specific aspects of vehicle design, safety features, and action strategies that support safer use and operation of a vehicle by seniors are outlined.
At night, when you open the door with the remote, it has an interior light and the lights come on. You can see if there’s anybody hiding in the back seat of the car, so I know it is safe to get in.
My mother [age 90] couldn’t turn her head to see the seat belt, nor did she have the strength to insert the buckle into the clasp, so she would hold onto the seat belt, instead of asking for help. I would have to put it on for her.
There are complications that make it difficult to use features in your car, like a lack of larger digits in terms of numbers on the radio for seniors. If you have larger digits, it would really help. Sometimes, you have to wear bifocals to see something with our vision. They should consider things like dials in the vehicles and the white and black backgrounds. It’s easier to read them in the daytime if the digits are black and white; it’s very important to be able to see and read clearly.
Years ago, the [turn signal] indicator lights were down low and the location wasn’t great. The location of the indicator lights being at the top of the panel is a good thing. Now you know if you have left them on or not.
You no longer have your whole hand off the wheel to use the horn. You [might] think we [seniors] should be able to comprehend this. In our adult years, we were used to the other type of horn. [Thus to use the new horn] you have to familiarize yourself with this feature.
Other drivers impair my safety. I feel insecure when they don’t follow the rules. Senior men don’t think women, for the most part, should be driving. They don’t demonstrate very good road courtesy. Men feel superior to women, and in my age group, they are not able to change.
I don’t drive when I’m tired. I’m aware of my energy level. I’m a better driver in the morning than at night; therefore, I arrange my driving patterns so I’m more fully awake. As I get older, I have to be more mindful of these things.
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