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Older Drivers More Prevalent; Auto Industry Reacts

You may start noticing more and more slow drivers on local freeways, and it’s not because drivers are illegally talking on their cell phones while monitoring their rear-view mirrors for cops.

The number of Americans age 55 to 74 is projected to nearly double by 2030, and already we’re seeing signs that the Baby Boomer generation is reaching senior-citizen status.

A young 50's woman blowing a bubble

The Baby Boomer’s Influence on the Auto Industry

Not that it’s a bad thing. These folks grew up in a post-World War II era when Americans were so happy about not being in a terrible war that they thrived, had large families and bought suburban homes.

That flight to suburbia actually helped trigger the automobile’s Golden Age, where nearly everyone got on the bandwagon and bought a car. Whether to tackle longer commutes or take advantage of the new interstate highway system that FDR championed.

Now those drivers created, in part, by the war are using those freeways and highways en masse. And it’s prejudiced to think all senior citizens are poor drivers.

Automakers are keenly aware of special needs and are providing features to make senior citizen driving more comfortable and safe.

What Automakers are Doing to Keep Older Drivers on the Road

Following is a look at some of these features – some of which are attractive for any driver regardless of age.

An old woman in a carAdjustable pedals - This can help any “height-challenged” driver whether you are a teen-ager or just started collecting Social Security. Push a button and a driver can adjust how close the accelerator and brake pedals are to the feet. This also prevents scooching forward to use the pedals, which can get a driver too close to the airbag.
Brake assist - This automatically applies the right amount of pressure depending on the situation, assisting those who cannot press down hard for whatever reason. Take note, gout sufferers.
Active head restraints - These head restraints moves forward upon a rear-end impact, helping to prevent head injuries.
Tilt/telescoping steering wheel - This is not just to make it easier to climb into the front seat.  A tilt-able steering wheel keeps drivers safely away from the airbag, and also, perhaps equally important, allows comfortable driving positions to alleviate back, hip, shoulder and other driving-related pains.
Stability control - This feature, which is gaining considerable attention in the media, allows the car to assist the driver in tough situations. It helps maintain control in turns, particularly in wet conditions.

A man eating, drinking coffee, taking on the phone and driving

What it Means to be a Mature Driver

Many people assume it’s harder to drive at an older age due to diminished sight, or height, there are many reasons.

By age 40, believe it or not, everyone starts to lose some mental sharpness. It’s more difficult to manage several tasks simultaneously – so definitely don’t talk on a cell phone and drive after 40.

After 50 reaction time starts to go. The ability to see something and act begins declining.

At 60 and beyond, muscle strength and motion range decreases considerably, making things like looking over your shoulder that much harder.

What’s this all mean? Well, for instance, the safety of driving a car in Los Angeles not only depends on the traffic conditions, but your age.

Also, when buying a car in Long Beach, know your daily and long-term driving conditions and look for the appropriate car. Many new cars come with the features outlined above, and if not, ask about them.

Or, if you’re selling a car in Orange County, know which features your vehicle has and market it appropriately. Perhaps tap a local senior citizen center and pitch the vehicle as perfect to make it easier and safer to drive around.

Spending a little more on options might be very worthwhile. Again, no matter how old you are.

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