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Make driving safer and easier with a few inexpensive gadgets

Dear Savvy Senior: Do you know of any car gadgets that can help older drivers? I drive a 12-year-old car and have arthritis in my neck, back and knees, which limits my mobility. I have difficulty looking over my shoulder to back up as well as getting in and out of the car. — Almost 80

Dear Almost: There are a number of inexpensive products you can purchase that help keep older drivers save and extend their driving years. These can easily be added to your vehicle. Here are some popular auto aids to consider.

>> Entry and exit aids: For mobility-challenged seniors who have a difficult time entering and exiting a vehicle — especially cars that are low to the ground or have elevated entries, such as those in SUVs or pickup trucks — there are a variety of support handles and special seat cushions that can help.

Some examples include the Stander HandyBar ($40; stander.com), a portable support grab bar that inserts into the U-shaped striker plate on the door frame, and the CarCaddie ($20), a nylon support handle that buckles around the top of the door window frame. Stander also has an Auto Swivel Seat Cushion ($40) that rotates 360 degrees to help drivers and passengers pivot their body into and out of their vehicle.

>> Rear-vision boosters: To help those with neck and back range-of-motion problems, which makes it difficult to look over the shoulder to back up or merge into traffic, there are special mirrors and backup cameras to assist.

To widen rear visibility and eliminate blind spots, Verivue Mirrors (verivuemirrors.com) offers the popular Universal 12-Inch Panoramic Rearview Mirror ($13) that clips on to existing rearview mirrors, along with a variety of Blind Spot Mirrors ($5 for two), which are small convex mirrors that stick to the corner of the sideview mirrors.

Another helpful device is the Auto-vox CS-2 Wireless Backup Camera Kit ($120, auto-vox.com). This comes with a night vision camera that attaches to the rear license plate and a small monitor that mounts to the dash or windshield. When the vehicle is in reverse, it sends live images wirelessly to the monitor so you can see what’s behind you.

>> Seat belt extenders: For plus-size people or those with mobility problems, there are seat belt extension products that can make buckling up a little easier. For example, Seat Belt Extender Pros (seatbeltextenderpros.com) offers vehicle-specific Seat Belt Extenders ($13 to $26) that fit into the seat belt buckle receiver to add a few inches of length, making them easier to fasten. They also sell a Seat Belt Grabber Handle ($8), which is a rubber extension handle that attaches to the seat belt strap to make it easier to reach.

>> Gripping devices: If you have hand arthritis that makes gripping difficult or painful, consider the SEG Direct Steering Wheel Cover ($17) that fits over the steering wheel to make it larger, softer and easier to grip. And for help twisting open tight gas caps, a few options: BW BRANDS 3 Piece Gas Cap Tool Set ($20), Freedom Gas Cap Wrench ($20) or Gas Cap & Oil Cap Opener by Gascapoff ($17). All are long-handled tools that work like a wrench to loosen and tighten gas caps.

Many of these products can be found in your local auto supply stores, online at the manufacturer’s website or at Amazon.com. Just type the product name in the search bar to find them.

>> Professional help: If you need more assistance, consider contacting a driver rehabilitation specialist who is trained to evaluate elderly drivers and provide safety and driving equipment suggestions.

In addition to the types of devices mentioned here, there is also a range of adaptive driving equipment that can be professionally installed on a vehicle — such as swing-out swivel seats, pedal extenders, hand controls and more — to help people with various disabilities.

To locate a driver rehabilitation specialist in your area, visit ADED.net or MyAOTA.aota.org/driver_search.

Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.

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