Help for Older Drivers

Getting older can lead to physical challenges that include decreased range of motion, difficulty entering and exiting vehicles, and decreased manual dexterity. But such challenges don’t automatically mean seniors have to give up driving. Occupational therapists and driver rehabilitation specialists assessing senior driver needs can put clients in touch with adaptive devices that can restore their driving mobility. For more information on the potential solutions listed below and how they can help preserve safety and independence for on-the-go seniors, visit www.driver-ed.org.

  • larger panoramic rear and side mirrors.
  • pedal extenders to better reach the brake and accelerator while keeping the seat back at a safe distance (11”) from the airbag in the steering wheel.
  • hand controls for the brake and gas.
  • car lifts and carrying devices for a wheelchair or a scooter.
  • steering device to aid in grabbing the wheel and making turns easier or more efficient.
  • seat belt adapters to make belts easier to reach, improve fit and make release buttons easier to operate for arthritic hands (ribbons attached to seat belts can assist in reaching for the belt).
  • special torso restraints to hold the driver upright.
  • turn-signal crossovers to shift operation of turn signals to the other side or to the floor for foot operation (to use the driver’s stronger leg or arm).
  • extra-loud turn signal clickers or relocated/ brighter turn signal indicators on the dashboard.
  • left-foot accelerator pedal for those with limited or no use of the right foot.
  • touch pads or voice-scan activation systems for car controls and electronic joystick controls for steering, gas pedal and brake.
  • hand grips to assist the driver or passengers in getting in or out of the vehicle.
  • leg lifter that allows for ease of transfers and pivoting into the seat. A loop is placed over the foot to assist in manually lifting the leg into the vehicle. Also, an alternative is to move the leg into the vehicle by pulling on a pant leg or manually lifting the thigh.

This article originally appeared in the September 2007 issue of Mobility Management.

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