Category Archives: Elderly Drivers

Good News for Older Drivers: OnStar Now Available For ANY Vehicle

Good news for older drivers — or anyone who wants to have more peace of mind about the safety of an aging parent or elderly loved one who is still behind the wheel…

As of July 24, you’ll be able to retrofit just about ANY vehicle with OnStar — the emergency aid and vehicle location system from General Motors that has only been available on new GM vehicles. The aftermarket version of OnStar, called OnStar FMV (For My Vehicle), is actually a replacement rear-view mirror unit which contains the OnStar technology.

The core appeal for safety-minded older drivers is the simplicity of being able to get emergency help from a live person with the push of a button — and the peace of mind knowing that the system can detect accidents and send emergency help even if you cannot push that button.

In other words, if you or an aging parent or loved one is in an accident, you don’t have to rely on having a mobile phone — or being able to use one in a high-stress situation — in order to get help.

Also critical: The OnStar service will connect you or your loved one with a trained “emergency advisor” during an emergency. Whether an older driver has been in an accident, suffered a medical emergency, or has just become confused or lost, being able to speak with a live person can be enormously reassuring and calming.

Although OnStar FMV gives you access to the same core services that GM builds into new Chevy, Buik, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles, most aging drivers will probably find the basic emergency response and roadside assistance services most useful:

• Automatic Crash Response, triggered by an accelerometer in the unit, connects the vehicle to a trained OnStar emergency advisor in the event of a crash. The advisor can provide the exact location of the crash to emergency responders using the mirror’s GPS location, even if the vehicle’s occupants are unable to respond.

• Emergency Services, summoned by pushing the red button, bring specially trained emergency advisors on the line immediately to help in a crisis, such as witnessing a collision or a crime in progress.

• Roadside Assistance for non-emergency situations, such as a mechanical breakdown or a flat tire, is a blue-button push away.

• Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance uses OnStar FMV’s global positioning satellite system to provide a stolen vehicle’s location to law enforcement officials.

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OnStar also offers a Turn-by-Turn Navigation service, an upgrade that may be worth every penny to technophobic older drivers who want nothing to do with dashboard navigation systems. Instead, the driver pushes the blue button to give an advisor a specific address or location. The advisor downloads directions to the unit, which plays back spoken turn-by-turn directions to the destination. 

This is a much easier and safer navigation solution for older drivers who don’t want to riskbeing distracted by looking at an LCD screen, or who don’t always safe leaving the car to ask for directions. OnStar FMV is also compatible with hands-free calling through a Blue-Tooth connection to a mobile phone. 

OnStar FMV will sell for $300 and will initially be available at Best Buy stores, where you can also have it installed for $75. The system will also be available through other chain and online retailers, but you’ll still need to have the unit installed professionally. The basic service plans start at $18.95 per month, or $199.95 per year. Adding the Turn-by-Turn Navigation option (which is bundled with optional hands-free calling for a mobile phone) costs 28.90 per month or $299 per year.

For more information, check out the OnStar FMV website.


Elderly Driver Safety Tip: How to Avoid Staged Accident Scams

Elderly drivers are favorite targets for staged accident scams, when professional thieves cause accidents on purpose to profit from insurance claims against unsuspecting motorists.

Elderly drivers are choice victims for these criminals, especially if they are driving alone in an upscale area in nice car that looks well-insured. The fact that some elderly drivers may be less attentive when driving, and more easily confused or intimidated after an accident makes them even more vulnerable.

According to a 2010 report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the top five states for staged accident questionable claims were Florida, New York, California, Texas, and Illinois.

“Staged auto accidents are a dangerous criminal activity that targets innocent drivers with increasingly bold schemes aimed at defrauding insurance companies,” says Loretta Worters, vice president with the Insurance Information Institute in New York City. “Not only do honest policyholders ultimately end up paying more for auto insurance, but those committing the fraud can cause serious injuries or death.”

At the least, getting into a forced accident costs a victim the inconvenience of having to take a vehicle in for repairs and having to deal with doctors, lawyers and insurance companies. A victim’s premiums could skyrocket because of the claim, or the insurance company might choose not to renew the policy.

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The NICB notes that there are four common types of staged accident scams:

1. Swoop and Squat: Usually involves three vehicles; two are driven by criminals, the other is the victim. The driver of the “squat” vehicle positions his vehicle in front of the victim’s car. The driver of the “swoop vehicle” pulls ahead of the squat vehicle and internationally cuts it off, thus causing the squat vehicle driver to hit his breaks. The victim cannot react in time and rear ends the squat vehicle. The swoop vehicle races off and is not seen again. The innocent motorist states the swoop vehicle caused the accident, but because that driver cannot be located, the victim has to pay the vehicle damage and personal injury claims of passengers in the squat vehicle.

2. Side Swipe: Typically occurs at busy intersections with dual left turn lanes. The criminal positions his vehicle in the outer lane. As soon as the victim’s vehicle drifts into the outer turn lane, the criminal side-swipes it.

3. Panic stop: Here the criminal typically drives an older vehicle filled with passengers. The criminal positions his car in front of the victim’s while a backseat passenger in the criminal’s vehicle watches and waits for the innocent motorist to be distracted, for example, by a cell phone call. As soon as the victim is distracted, the driver slams on the brakes, causing the innocent motorist to rear-end the criminal’s vehicle. The victim’s insurance company must pay for vehicle damage as well as injuries that the passengers may claim to have suffered from the accident.

4. Drive down: In this scheme, the victim merges his vehicle into traffic after being motioned to do so by the criminal. As the innocent driver begins to merge, the criminal speeds up and causes a collision. When questioned, the criminal denies motioning the victim to merge into traffic or gives excuses.

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Elderly drivers who want to avoid staged accident scams should keep these driver safety tips in mind:

• Maintain plenty of distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you in case the driver in front of you suddenly slams on the brakes.

• Stay focused. Turn off the radio and your cell phone. The more you can eliminate driving distractions, the easier it is to stay aware of the vehicles around you. Accident scammers trolling for victims are always on the lookout for other drivers talking on cell phones. It’s just easier to make their case that you weren’t paying attention to the road.

• Check your rear-view and side mirrors frequently. Elderly drivers often drive with tunnel-vision, narrow-focusing on the road ahead. This tendency is well-known and easy to spot by professional accident scammers.

If you are in an accident:

• Call 911 immediately. Even if there are no injuries or little damage, you want police assistance on scene as quickly as possible. If you are dealing with thieves, they may not be interested in filing a bogus accident claim. The staged accident may just be a pretense to get you out of your car to steal your wallet or your vehicle.

• Keep a disposable camera, pen and notebook in your glove compartment. If you are in an accident, you want to gather as much information as possible. If you think you are the victim of a staged accident, the first thing you should do is COUNT AND TAKE PHOTOS OF THE PASSENGERS. Get their names and telephone numbers. Scammers have been known to recruit people on the street to jump in to a vehicle before the police arrive to pad a claim with “victims” who were not in the car.

• Take pictures of the damage on both cars. To obtain a bigger claim, scammers have been known to turn small dents into major damage between the accident scene and the body shop.

• Notice how the other passengers behave. Do they seem hurt? Or do they wait for the police or ambulance to arrive before they act injured?

• Beware “strangers” on the street who try to direct you to a doctor, chiropractor, lawyer, or body shop. Or tow trucks that magically appear. Valets, parking attendants, or other bystanders who witnessed the “accident” may be part of the scam team. The last thing you want is to be further victimized by a crooked repair shop that only wants to pad your bill or a bogus health care provider that is more interested in billing your insurance than giving you proper care.


CarFit Events Help Keep Older Drivers Safe

One of the keys to helping older drivers stay behind the wheel is to make vehicle adjustments for slower reflexes and more limited range of motion. Even the simplest adjustments — like changing the angle on side mirrors to eliminate dangerous blind spots and reduce nighttime glare — can make a huge difference.

Check out this video to see how an AAA “CarFit” technician takes an elderly driver through the adjustment process.

CarFit is a national educational program developed by the American Society on Aging, the American Automobile Association, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association.

If you’re an older driver who wants to keep driving safely as long as possible, register for a CarFit event near you. There is little or no cost to attend. For more information, visit


New Study Has Serious Message for Elderly Drivers

Even if  your aging parent is perfectly healthy and has a clean driving record, their advanced age may still affect their ability to drive safely. That’s the conclusion from a study on elderly drivers recently published in the journal Neuropsychology.

Overall, 17 percent of the elderly drivers in the study made mistakes such as veering or failing to use check blind spots that caused the professional driving instructor accompanying them to hit the emergency brake or grab onto the steering wheel.

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The research showed that the older the driver, the more likely they were to make serious driving errors. Participants between the ages of 85 and 89 made four times as many critical mistakes as those aged 70 to 74. None of the participants had dementia. All lived independently and still drove at least once a week.

Another key finding: Elderly drivers who had been involved in an accident within the past five years were the participants most likely to make a driving error. And for the record, the elderly male drivers made as many errors as the elderly female drivers.

Here are some safe driving tips for elderly drivers who want to stay behind the wheel as long as possible:

• If you’re an elderly driver in good health, at the very least it makes sense to take a defensive driving course and learn how to adjust your driving habits for slowing reflexes and diminished vision. For a nominal fee, AARP offers its well-respected Driver Safety Course in a classroom or online.

• If you’re the adult child of an aging parent whose had one or more driving-related accident in last few years, stop rolling the dice! It’s time for a more formal driving assessment. Check out the American Automobile Association’s Roadwise Review self-assessment software here. The online version is free or you can order a CD for a nominal fee.

• Ask your doctor to review your prescription and over-the-counter meds for interactions or side effects that can cause dizziness or confusion.

• Get your vision and hearing checked once a year.

• Don’t eat, drink, or blast the radio while driving! And don’t even think of dialing your cell phone. Distracted driving is a problem for drivers of all ages — but when combined with delayed reaction times, it’s often deadly.


Free Resource On How to Help Elderly Drivers

For many elderly drivers, it takes an accident to convince them that it’s no longer safe for them to get behind the wheel. And sometimes, that’s also what it takes to convince their family, too…

“The problem we usually see is that adult kids of adult parents don’t want to necessarily take away driving privileges because, then who’s going to help Mom or Dad get to the grocery store, get to a doctor’s office, and the adult child is working or may or may not live in the same city…”

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The hard fact is that when an aging parent gives up the keys, it often means that everyone in the family must also learn to cope with the new reality. No parent wants to feel like a burden to their children. And no child wants to limit their parent’s independence.

The American Automobile Association offers a fantastic resource to help you and your aging parent manage this delicate transition. Download your free copy of “How to Help an Older Driver: A Guide for Planning Safe Transportation” here.

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