With plenty of attention being paid by safety groups, government agencies and automakers to curbing distracted driving by teens while bringing to autos the technologies that appeal to youths, it's easy to overlook the needs and concerns of a much larger group of drivers; those over 50.
To help determine what this larger (and wealthier) group of drivers should look for when buying a car, Hartford Insurance teamed up with MIT's AgeLab and came up with a list of technologies that benefit people over the age of 50.
"Not all technologies are created equal," says Jodi Olshevski, a gerontologist at Hartford. "We wanted to know what are the top 10 that are helpful and useful benefits to mature drivers."
To compile the list, Olshevski's team at Hartford, in conjunction with the folks at AgeLab, drew on previous research they had gathered on important new technologies in cars. The list was then reviewed by experts in fields relevant to aging like ergonomics, occupational therapy, geriatrics and disabled driving. Finally, the team surveyed some 900 mature drivers nationwide to get a sense of what mattered most to them.
The result is 10 items that mature drivers can look for when shopping for a new vehicle that will likely make their driving experience safer and less stressful.
"Our primary interest was equipping consumers to have this info so when they go shopping they can bring our list and talk to the salesman and use it in the decision-making process," Olshevski said.
While the list includes some technologies like lane-departure warning or parking assist systems that may only be available on more expensive vehicles, others are more common: electronic stability control is now mandatory for all passenger vehicles made after 2011.
The decision to look at the technologies themselves, rather than particular brands that feature them, was a conscious one, Olshevski said.
"We really didn't look at specific manufacturers. We were more interested in looking at the technologies themselves to get a sense of which ones do we think drivers should look at."
The survey of mature drivers also helped shape this list. For example, 24% of respondents said seeing at night was their top concern. Thus, smart headlights is the No. 1 technology that older consumers are encouraged to look for when purchasing a new vehicle. The other top concerns were changing lanes in traffic, merging on the highway and distractions within the vehicle, (such as phone calls and selecting music).
Fortunately, mature drivers have an optimistic outlook on how technology will affect their driving. Eight-six percent of those surveyed said they think the latest technologies will help them drive more safely. Sixty-five percent agreed that having the latest technologies in their vehicle will increase their confidence while driving.