Dear Car Talk:
I own a 2013 Honda Civic EX with 16,000 miles, which I really like. But I’m wondering, since I turned 81 this year, if I should think about upgrading to the newer safety features, such as anti-collision, blind spot sensor, etc. Since I turned 81, I’ve been thinking that maybe I should have all the help I can get, but I know the Civic probably would be fine until I’m ready to hang up my keys (or the kids take them away). I have been studying a lot of different rating sources and like the features of the Subaru Impreza hatchback, which is in my price range and would hold my waterskis and kayak. My two questions are: (1) Is it a good idea to make this change? and (2) Is there anything else I should consider? I really don’t want an SUV. Thanks! — Shirley
Anything else you should consider? How about a chauffeur?
You absolutely should make this change, Shirley. Let’s face it: Our reflexes — along with our eyesight, our hearing and our tolerance for certain relatives at Thanksgiving — decline as we get older. What could be better than getting a car with some reflexes of its own to make up for our deficiencies?
That’s exactly what’s available to this current generation of senior drivers. We now have cars that notice if a pedestrian walks out in front of you and will hit the brakes for you if you don’t react in time. We have cars that will notice if traffic in front of you slows down, even if you haven’t noticed, and if you fail to react, they’ll slow or stop themselves for you. We have cars that will tell you that you shouldn’t change lanes right now because there’s a car (or worse, an 18-wheeler) in your blind spot that you didn’t notice.
Normally, what happens to older drivers is that they drive until there’s “an incident.” You don’t notice something, someone cuts you off and you don’t react quickly enough, you mistake a statue of the Hamburglar outside a McDonald’s for your late husband and drive into some shrubbery. These things happen. Then the kids conclude (probably correctly) that it’s time for you to give up the keys.
What these advanced safety features do is help you avoid those “incidents,” and delay the time when you have to give up driving and lose a big piece of your independence. Isn’t that fantastic?
At some point, if you can’t see or can’t operate the pedals, you’ll still have to give up the keys, Shirley. Although, within a decade or two, if you can hang on, technology may solve that, too, with totally self-driving cars. But for now, the crucial technology to have, in my opinion, is city- and highway-speed forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. And you can get all that stuff in a Subaru Impreza for less than $25 grand.
I recently drove the new Impreza, and it’s probably the most comfortable small car I’ve driven. It’s practical, affordable and, unlike a number of other affordable cars on the market, you can get it with all the good safety stuff.
I’d love to see a heads-up display in there, too (which projects key information, like your speed and navigation directions, out in front of the windshield, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road), but good heads-up displays are still slowly trickling down from higher-end cars.
But this is an excellent idea, Shirley. Either trade in the Civic, or bestow it on a ne’er-do-well grandchild, and buy yourself some more safe years behind the wheel. And tell all of your 81-year-old waterskiing and kayaking friends to do the same.
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