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The Golden Years may be the best time of our lives or not, but when it comes to getting behind the wheel and continuing to drive, some mature drivers may need a little help to do so safely.
No, we’re not talking about adaptive equipment here, but increasingly popular safety technologies that automakers are adding to vehicles as either standard or optional equipment.
As reported by The New York Times, a recent study by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) AgeLab and the Hartford Insurance Group identified ten auto-related safety technologies that may be most beneficial for older drivers.
A seven-person panel compiled the list after studying 25 such technologies and looking at the safety benefits, possible distraction factors, the challenges of using the technology, performance benefits to the operator, and the likelihood that the feature could mitigate the effects of an accident.
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As for the term “mature driver,” Jodi Olshevski, a gerontologist at the Hartford, told the publication that for the purposes of this study, a mature driver was defined as one who has reached the age of 50. That’s because some important faculties begin to diminish at age 50, such as the ability to see well at night.
M.I.T.’s AgeLab director Joseph Coughlin said that the panel, with expertise in the fields of geriatric medicine, occupational therapy, kinesiology and human factors, worked independently in order to avoid “groupthink” and for logistical reasons.
According to research by the Hartford, 24 percent of mature drivers surveyed said that seeing at night is a concern for them, while other concerns included distractions within the vehicle, such as music and phone calls (13 percent), changing lanes in traffic, and merging into traffic (at 12 percent each).
The research also found that 86 percent of mature drivers believe that the latest technologies will help them to drive more safely in years to come, and 65 percent agree that having the latest technology increases their driving confidence.
When buying a car, most drivers age 50+ ranked fuel economy, reliability and safety within their top three considerations (at 70, 66 and 63 percent, respectively).
Top 10 technologies
The list of technologies considered most helpful for mature drivers include:
(1) Smart headlights – adjust the range and intensity of light based on distance to traffic; reduces glare, improves night vision
(2) Emergency response systems – offer assistance to drivers in the event of a collision or emergency
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(3) Reverse monitoring systems – warn drivers of objects to rear of vehicle, helping them to back up and judge distances; beneficial for drivers with reduced flexibility
(4) Blind spot warning systems – warn driver of objects they can’t see when changing lanes or parking; deemed particularly helpful for mature drivers with limited range of motion
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(5) Lane departure warning systems – monitors vehicle position and warns driver if the vehicle veers out of lanes
(6) Vehicle stability control – works to prevent loss of vehicle control in bad weather or conditions causing loss of traction