Older driver. Image courtesy AAA

Image courtesy AAA

Older adults will benefit directly from self-driving vehicles, writes Joseph F. Coughlin for Big Think. And the sooner the market introduces new driving-safety technologies, the sooner older people will adopt them, he writes. He reports that people between the ages of 55 and 64 are the largest group, by age, of car buyers in the U.S., according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

A recent study by AARP Driver Safety’s partners at MIT Age Lab and The Hartford sought to pinpoint the top vehicle technologies for drivers 50 and older, writes Julie Lee, vice president and national director of AARP Driver Safety, for Huff Post’s Post 50. Lee writes that when she was looking to buy a new car recently, she consulted the study for its list of the top 10 technologies.

The list includes:

  • Smart Headlights. These reduce glare and improve night vision by adjusting the intensity and range of light based on the distance to other vehicles, Lee writes. She said as a person who has noticed a change in her night vision, “I feel more comfortable driving on dark roads with the assistance of my new smart headlights.”
  • Emergency Response Systems provide fast assistance in a medical emergency or accident, and can help first responders get to the scene more quickly. Some such systems will also shut off fuel, unlock doors, and turn on interior lights when airbags open, Lee writes.
  • Rear-View Cameras. Reverse Monitoring Systems, as they are sometimes called, help drivers see what is happening when they are backing up, and can help them judge distances and back up safely, Lee writes. She adds that these systems are particularly useful for drivers who have limited flexibility and difficulty turning around to see what might be behind their vehicles.
  • Blind Spot Warning Systems alert drivers of vehicles and other objects in a car’s blind spot. Lee advises that drivers who lack this feature can still protect themselves by doing the following:

Make sure your rearview mirror is properly adjusted by checking that you can see your entire rear window. You know your left and right mirrors are properly adjusted when you can barely see the left and right back of your vehicle as you look through the mirrors respectively.

  • Vehicle Stability Controls reduce the likelihood of a car accident by steering the car back in the intended line of travel.
  • Lane Departure Systems will alert the driver if the car is drifting out of lane, which can happen due to distractions and drowsiness.
  • Assistive Parking Systems can sometimes parallel-park the car without a driver’s help. Other such systems will show the driver how close the vehicle is to a wall, curb, or other vehicle, and warn the drivers if objects are in the way of parking, Lee writes.
  • Crash Mitigation Systems can automatically tighten seat belts if a collision seems imminent, and can automatically apply the brakes, Lee writes.
  • Drowsy Driving Alerts aim to let the driver know when he or she is nodding off, with sounds and/or dashboard alerts, Lee writes.

Lee also adds voice-activated systems to the list, saying that they minimize distractions. But studies have found that they are not effective in preventing distracted driving, as this blog has reported.

You can learn more about top safety features in this slide show, which links to videos on each technology. It was produced by AARP, based on information created jointly by The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab. Older drivers — and anyone who seeks to learn effective ways to drive safely — can take free classroom courses from AARP. The organization also provides an online course. You can find both here.

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