Extend your driving years with safety gadgets

Senior woman, kayaking, seeks new car to carry her outdoor equipmentCreeping toward senior citizenship, I've decided my next new car will employ safety features that not only can protect me, but prolong my driving years.

That became apparent after reading a story in The Seattle Times about an aging driver shopping for the right wheels to carry her waterskis and kayak – a woman who's 81!

(I'll be happy if I can simply ride in boats at 81.)

Car expert Ray Magliozzi points out there's no reason not to buy a car with advanced safety features. For one thing, they're becoming commonplace and affordable on more makes and models. You can buy a Subaru Impreza with collision warning and automatic emergency braking, blind-spot sensors, lane-departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert for less than $25,000.

Inevitably, all drivers' reflexes decline as they age. Kid yourself all you want, but you don't have the reflexes at 50 that you did at 20, and they'll decline even more by 60, 70, and beyond. For many their eyesight fades and hearing worsens, further hindering them, especially when driving after dark and in rain squalls.

Advanced safety features can detect danger before you do, and before it's too late. Think of it as a safety buffer, one that can prolong your driving days beyond the point a prudent driver normally would give up his or her keys (and a great measure of independence).

My 2000 Silverado pickup has proven to be so useful and reliable that I'd like a new one. I was pleased to see the 2018 model earns high safety ratings for crashes, which you'd expect in a full-size truck, and they're equipped with electronic stability control.

The 2018 Chevy Silverado earned good crash ratings, but advanced safety features are options, not standardSeveral advanced safety features also are optional, but not standard, on the Silverado – collision and lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, rearview camera. But it offers no blindspot sensors. However, the Ford F-150 offers nearly all safety features, while the Dodge Ram 1500 offers virtually none.

I'm hopeful that by the time I'm ready to buy in a year or two, the safety trend will have engulfed all cars and pickups and equipped them with the whiz-bang stuff.

Magliozzi notes that even beyond our safe-driving years, it won't be long before we can travel in fully self-driving cars. Simply hop in, program where you want to go, and let technology safely transport you there.

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