Airbag Safety for Aging Drivers

By Dawn Kepler, Project Administrator

Older adults (age 65 and up) comprise 20% of all drivers licensed in Michigan, and this number is projected to increase. Older drivers are more likely than other age groups to engage in the following crash related driving behaviors: failure to yield, disregard of traffic control, improper lane use, improper turn, and improper backing. 

In addition, the risk of injury or death is higher for older adults, with death being 3.5 times more probable in two-vehicle crashes for drivers 70 and over. 

Driving is an important factor in a person’s ability to maintain independence and age in place, which makes airbags and other safety features particularly important for older drivers.  

Below are five airbag safety tips for aging drivers: 

  • Keep your hands low on the steering wheel to avoid hand or wrist injuries from airbag inflation, maintaining a 9 and 3 hand placement or lower. 
  • Position your seat so it is at least 10 inches back from the steering wheel and you have 3 inches of sight clearance above the steering wheel to protect against airbag injuries. 
  • Airbags are not a replacement for seat belts, which should be worn by all passengers for injury prevention. 
  • Adjust and lock your headrest so the top aligns with the uppermost part of your head and it is as close to you as possible to help prevent neck injuries during rear-end crashes. 
  • When purchasing a vehicle, search for safety ratings and features at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website. 

Although these tips were developed to prevent injury for older adults, they are guidelines that can increase safety for all drivers. 

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