Has the Time Come for an Older Driver Vehicle? by David W. Eby, PhD and Lisa J. Molnar, PhD
Abstract: The populations of many nations and, indeed, the entire world are growing older. As people age, they are more likely to experience medical conditions and take medications that can make operating a personal automobile more difficult. Once driving abilities begin to decline, older adults are often faced with decreased ability to travel to the places that they both want and need to go, due largely to the lack of non-driving options needed for personal mobility.Thus, due to the preference for and pervasiveness of the personal automobile for satisfying mobility needs, there is a global need to keep older adults driving for as long as they can safely do so. In this synthesis of the literature we explored the question: Has the time come for an older driver vehicle? Great gains in safe mobility for older adults could be made by designing automobiles that take into account, and help overcome, some of the deficits in abilities common in older people. This review provides a background and rationale for an older driver vehicle, including discussions of relevant trends, age-related declines in functional abilities, and the adverse consequences of decreased mobility; discusses research and issues related to vehicle design and advanced technology; explores crashworthiness issues and the unique requirements for older adults; and discusses issues related to marketing a vehicle that has been designed for older drivers. Has the time come for an older driver vehicle? We answer this question with a qualified “yes.” There is a global opportunity to improve the safety, mobility, and quality of life of older adults by designing vehicles and technologies that help overcome common age-related deficits. The marketing of these vehicles to older consumers, however, will be challenging and will likely require further market research.