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Expert Q&A

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AAA’s Expert Q&A Forum is completely anonymous, and personally identifying information, such as an e-mail address, is not required to submit a question.

The forum is supported by a team of traffic safety researchers, health promotion specialists, engineers, epidemiologists and other health professionals who can address a wide variety of concerns related to senior driver safety.

Our experts cannot respond immediately or individually to queries. While all questions are read, not all can be published, due to the large volume of submissions.

AAA’s Expert Q&A Forum does not offer medical advice. If you have an existing health condition or an urgent health problem, consult with a health care provider before acting on information provided here.

To get started, you can learn more about some of AAA’s experts, review our Q&A library of previously submitted questions, or submit your own question.

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Recently Answered Questions

What is the proper way to adjust your steering wheel height and the placement of your hands to prevent injury in the event of an airbag deployment? I heard from a co-worker that "aiming" the steering wheel height from your face is best so that during a deployment the bag's force would be delivered to your stomach and not bone. I also read something about positioning your hands at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions is now ideal to avoid hand injuries by airbags.

— Los Angeles, California

Thank you for your questions! First, AAA recommends adjusting the steering wheel so that the top of the wheel is no higher than the top of your shoulders.  This gives you the maximum control behind the wheel with the least fatigue, and it also keeps you safe if your airbag deploys. To learn more about how you should “fit” with your vehicle, check out CarFit!

Second, AAA now recommends a slightly lower hand position on the steering wheel, at either “9&3” or “8&4,” whichever is more comfortable.  Using this lower grip will keep the driver safe if the airbag deploys and makes it easier to steer in any sort of emergency maneuvering.  


Dad is 88. How and when does he need to quit driving? Is there help?

— Grand Rapids, Michigan

Your dad is lucky to have children looking out for his wellbeing! The truth of the matter is that driving is a function of ability, not age; there’s no magic number at which our driving abilities become compromised.

If you’re concerned about your dad’s driving abilities, check here to see if he is exhibiting any of the warning signs for unsafe driving. He can fill out a self-rating form, take an interactive driving evaluation on the computer, or be assessed by an occupational therapist-driver rehabilitation specialist to identify and address his strengths and weaknesses behind the wheel.


Meet the Experts

William E. Van Tassel

PhD

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William E. Van Tassel, PhD

Dr. William E. Van Tassel is the Manager of Driver Training Programs for AAA.  In this role, he coordinates the development, implementation and evaluation of AAA’s driver safety training programs.  Coordinating training programs for drivers of all ages, including novice and senior drivers, he also represents the association in driving safety-related issues at the federal and international levels.

William is a member of the Transportation Research Board Committee on Operator Education and Regulation and the National Driver Education and Training Administrative Standards Core Development Team.  Earning his doctorate at Texas A&M University, he has worked with the US Army Safety Center to prevent crashes among drivers serving in the Armed Forces.


Jake Nelson

MPH, MPP

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Jake Nelson, MPH, MPP

Jake Nelson is the Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research for AAA. In this role he directs the analysis and application of scientific research to AAA’s traffic safety activities, including programmatic offerings and advocacy at the national and state levels. Additionally, he serves as the association’s top safety expert in scientific and academic venues, with transportation stakeholder groups, and before federal agencies and Congress.

Jake is a current member of the American Public Health Association, the Society for Public Health Education and Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health. He is a Public Health Leadership Fellow alumnus and member of the National Public Health Leadership Society. Jake was an undergraduate of the University of Michigan, and completed his graduate studies in public health at the George Washington University and in public policy at the University of Chicago where he was named a McCormick Tribune Leadership Fellow.


J. Peter Kissinger

MS

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J. Peter Kissinger, MS

J. Peter Kissinger is president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a position he assumed in May 2002. The foundation is a publicly supported, charitable research and educational organization founded by AAA in 1947. Its focus is on “saving lives through research and education.”

Prior to joining the foundation, Kissinger was senior vice president of the Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF), the research arm of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and was employed in Florida by Chromalloy Gas Turbine Corporation, where he was director of Strategic Programs.

Before relocating to Florida, Kissinger was employed by the National Transportation Safety Board for 12 years, serving the last eight as managing director. While there, he was influential in restructuring NTSB programs to maximize their effectiveness, increase emphasis on surface transportation and introduce enhanced safety technologies throughout the transportation system. Kissinger has a B.S. in engineering from the Coast Guard Academy and an M.S. in operations research from The George Washington University.