How to help seniors adapt to automotive tech

Aging drivers may need a little extra help as they try to learn how to use assistance technologies in their vehicles.

Modern automobiles are more technologically advanced than ever before.

That tech isn’t just making driving more comfortable and convenient, but also more safe.

In a recent analysis of motor vehicle accidents, researchers at the International Institute for Highway Safety found that vehicles with blind spot and lane departure warning systems were involved in 11 percent fewer sideswipes and head-on crashes than cars that did not feature such systems. In addition, the IIHS estimates that the number of automobile crashes in the United States could be decreased by 85,000 each year if every vehicle were outfitted with a lane departure warning system.

Driver assistance systems have made driving safer for millions of people across the globe, but one demographic may need some extra help adapting to modern vehicles, and may even need a little extra encouragement to utilize tech that can keep them safe behind the wheel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that, in 2018, the United States was home to 45 million licensed drivers aged 65 and over. That marks a 60 percent increase since 2000. Though seniors’ perceived unwillingness or inability to utilize modern technology is often overstated, some aging drivers may need a little extra help as they try to learn how to use assistance technologies in their vehicles.

♦ Learn the tech yourself. Assistance technologies are not all one and the same. Vehicle manufacturers have their own systems and there can be a learning curve when adapting to a new one. If you aspire to teach a senior how to utilize the assistance technologies in his or her vehicle, first learn the tech on your own. If both you and your aging friend or family member own a Subaru, chances are you already know how to use the tech in your loved one’s vehicle. If you drive cars made by different manufacturers, visit the dealership where your loved one bought his or her car and ask for a quick tutorial on all the safety features in the vehicle. Salesman demonstrate these features every day, so it shouldn’t take long for them to show you the ropes.

♦ Be patient. Each person adapts to a new technology at his or her own pace. It’s important to remain patient when teaching aging drivers how to use the tech in their vehicles. Old habits die hard, and while some drivers may quickly adapt to tech like backup cameras, others may not be so quick to abandon driving techniques they’ve been safely using for decades. Stay the course, remain patient and allow senior drivers to adapt at their own pace.

♦ Teach one tech at a time. It can be overwhelming for drivers of all ages to adapt overnight to all the tech in their new vehicles. When teaching senior drivers how to utilize various driver assistance technologies, take it one tech at a time. When coupled with your patience, this approach can help seniors avoid being overwhelmed and increases the likelihood that they will embrace the tech in their vehicles.

Many senior drivers utilize driver assistance technologies every day. A patient and methodical approach to showing seniors how their vehicles can help them stay safe behind the wheel can be a road map to helping seniors adapt to life in modern vehicles.

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