For better or worse, driving is one of the most critical aspects of travel and freedom in the United States. Without the ability to drive, you can be trapped at home, unable to reasonably leave to make it to a job, to buy groceries and other essentials, or to visit friends and maintain a social life. The keys to a car unlock a lot more doors than advertised.
Those with mental and physical disabilities know better than anyone how challenging life without a vehicle can be. For many years, there have been few options for individual, solo travel because the technology and price point just wasn’t there. It has proven to be a major challenge for those striving to fight for equality.
Fortunately, many of those efforts have largely paid off. New technologies are making driving more attainable for everyone, and advances in technology have made the experience far less painful and difficult. In addition, more improvements are on the horizon; there is much to look forward to.
Tech Advances Technological advances are taking place at a rapid rate; it seems like every new vehicle model has something new and exciting to offer. People are eating up these top car tech and safety features:
- Bluetooth audio for music and communication
- Rearview cameras and backup sensors
- Automatic high beams
- Automatic windshield wipers
- Lane departure warnings
- Emergency communication systems
- Night vision and blind-spot detection
- Push-button start
- Keyless entry
- Voice Command
- Automatic closing doors
- Adjustable gas/brake pedals
The list goes on and on.
Many of these tech and safety advances allow for greater flexibility in driving which can make it more accessible for everyone. Things like voice command and many of the automated features enable those with physical disabilities to drive more easily. In addition, all of these features can make driving a lot safer for everyone.
Outside of what is going on with the car, advances in road safety are also taking place. New traffic lights with countdown timers or different shapes are being tested in numerous cities with positive results. Additionally, road lighting using smart technology is also becoming a reality. All of these advances can increase visibility and equality while also reducing hazards on the roadway.
Leaning into the Future As technologies and safety features and rules improve, there is much for drivers with disabilities to look forward to. There is a lot of exciting news on the horizon!
Self-driving cars are slowly but surely becoming a reality. Self-driving cars could eliminate any need for expensive special features or accommodations in vehicles. Likewise, they could greatly increase the equality and safety of driving for everyone. Although Tesla (the brand leading the way in self-driving cars) says drivers will need to remain alert while driving automated vehicles, there is great potential to eliminate hurdles for those with driving difficulties.
Even more exciting is Toyota’s plan to increase mobility in some of it’s newer vehicles such as in the Concept-I RIDE. The model is specifically designed to accommodate people with limited mobility, allowing them to be more independent. The car has integrated AI technology, full gull-wing doors, and additional storage. Hitting the road is still a few years out, but the new model is really exciting.
Safety for Everyone Increasing equality in the realm of driving isn’t just about the advances that are being added inside and outside of vehicles. It is also about encouraging thoughtful driving habits in others. After all, driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do on a day to day basis. Nearly 1.3 million people die in traffic accidents every year; that’s approximately 3,287 per day!
Some things such as distracting lights in vehicles are becoming a problem. Uber and Lyft have drivers use bright icons in their windows to let passengers know they are a driver. These lights can change colors as drivers approach passengers for pick up, making this system quite handy. Some are fighting back against this, however, saying the bright lights with changing colors are a distraction on the road that could lead to more accidents.
Then, of course, there are the more perilous distracted driving issues such as texting, applying makeup, or eating while driving or driving under the influence. All of these things cause distractions that can lead to serious accidents. Fortunately, many states are cracking down on risky driving behaviors, and the above-mentioned technologies are reducing the need to take hands off the steering wheel at all.
Driving has long been an equality challenge for those with physical or mental disabilities. Due to this, many have been forced to live with a lesser degree of independence. Fortunately, new advances and approaching new technology and safety in vehicles, on roadways, and in law enforcement are improving and making driving a reality for more disabled people. These developments on the horizon provide exciting prospects to look forward to.
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