Keeping older drivers safe behind the wheel

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — As people get older, the face mental and physical challenges.

This week is designated as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, and traffic safety experts want to create awareness about the challenges older drivers face.

According to AAA, Kansas had the third highest percentage in the country of drivers 65+ involved in fatal crashes in 2016. The report shows of the 556 drivers involved in fatal crashes in Kansas, 96 (17.3 percent) were 65 or older.

Wisconsin (18.7 percent) and Maine (18 percent) had a higher percentage that Kansas, according to AAA.

Traffic safety experts said this is an issue that needs to be focused on, so that senior drivers stay safe on the roads. However, they don’t want to look at it as a problem, but more of a way to create awareness that there are resources in the community to help senior drivers.

“Giving people the ability to stay mobile, stay interactive and out in the community, but also balancing that with safety,” said Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas.

Steward added that family and friends play a major role in identifying changes in driving behavior and beginning the conversation about older driver safety.

Some of the factors related to fatal crashes involving drivers 65+ include: limitation to vision, operating a steering wheel or turning to see a blind spot.

Experts said approaching the topic can be touchy, as many older drivers see driving as a representation of independence. However, it’s important to get older drivers involved with what they can do to stay safe behind the wheel.

AAA urges seniors to consider simple vehicle adjustments in order to reduce crash risk and extend the time they can continue to drive.

WATCH: KSN’s Amanda Aguilar shows different vehicle features that older drivers can use in their car.

Other vehicle devices include:

  • Convex/multifaceted mirrors: Improves visibility and minimizes blind spots
  • Pedal extension: Helps drivers obtain a safe distance from the steering wheel/airbag and optimize visibility
  • Steering wheel covers: Improves grip for drivers with arthritic hand joints
  • Hand controls: Allows the driver to perform all vehicle maneuvers and functions without the use of lower extremities

Learn more about vehicle devices and older driver safety programs on the AAA website.

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