Editorial: Advances help older drivers

It's a fact of life that our abilities diminish as we age, so it is important that in areas where we need to be our best - such as behind the wheel - we are taking advantage of advances in technology that can help keep us safe.
Last week was American Occupational Therapy Association's Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. It was a week whose focus was on highlighting things that older drivers can do to decrease their chance of having an accident.
AAA Mid-Atlantic last week said that it is important for older drivers to take advantage of safety enhancements available to make driving easier. AAA spokeswoman Christine Delise noted, "There [is] a lot of inexpensive adaptive equipment that motorists can make to their existing cars. It ranges from something like - which I purchased for my father - a thick steering wheel cover that will help with hands that are more arthritic... [to] a plastic tool that you insert your key in that makes it easier to turn a key."
New vehicles also are coming equipped with more and more safety features, and last week federal highway safety officials said they are looking into the possibility of adopting a "silver rating" system that would make it easier for people to identify which autos better protect older drivers and their passengers in a crash.
It's part of a five-year plan to reduce fatal and injury related accidents among older drivers.
According to AAA, nearly 90 percent of motorists 65 and older suffer from health issues that hurt their driver safety. Of those, only one in 10 uses safety features like keyless entry or dashboard controls, according to a 2012 AAA survey.
Delise said health concerns such as limited range of motion in the knees, arthritic hands and diminished vision, among other issues, could lead to unsafe driving.
Too often when the discussion turns to older drivers it centers on taking away the keys. In some cases, that is a necessity. But in far more cases, older drivers just need a little extra help to make up for the normal problems that come with aging.
Older drivers should research what is available to help them remain safe behind the wheel, but to do that we also need to recognize our limitations and how the normal aging process is impacting our abilities.
Increasing awareness about problems, as well as staying on top of advances in technology that could help adjust for that, are key to reducing the number of accidents and keeping elderly drivers safe.