Auto Club Promotes CarFit Program for Long Beach Senior Motorists to Keep Safe

(LONG BEACH, Nov. 19, 2007) — Older drivers in Long Beach will be getting "fit" to drive safely as part of CarFit, a program to help seniors learn how the effects of aging change the way they fit in their vehicle and how their driving can be affected.

CarFit, a free program for seniors 65 and older, will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at the El Dorado Senior Center, 2800 N. Studebaker Road, Long Beach, 92815-1629. (The entrance is south of Carson Street and north of Willow Street.) CarFit appointments can be made by calling the Auto Club's Community Affairs Office at 714-885-2312.

Trained professionals conduct a 12-pt., 15-minute checklist on the driver and the car, which includes an evaluation of seat-belt adjustment, foot pedals, vision and mirrors to ensure that senior drivers are "correctly fitted" to their vehicles to ensure safety.

An occupational therapist who specializes in driver rehabilitation will offer advice on ways a driver can maintain and strengthen their driving health, including community resources where seniors can go for further evaluation regarding exercise, nutrition and adaptive devices.

The CarFit program is designed to give a quick, comprehensive check on how well a senior driver and their vehicle work together. CarFit was developed by AAA, the American Society on Aging, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association.

"The Auto Club believes that people should be able to keep driving as long as they want to—if they can do so safely," said Carol Thorp, spokeswoman for the Auto Club.

Thorp noted that age affects vision, flexibility, and strength, range of motion and even size and height. "Unless seniors make adjustments, those changes may make older drivers less comfortable and reduce control behind the wheel. CarFit gives older adults the tools to help them stay on the road safely," she said.

The number of seniors in California is growing rapidly. In 1990, people over 65 years old represented 10 percent of California's population.

"In 1995, 68 percent of seniors were licensed drivers. It is reasonable to expect that as the population ages, this percentage will increase," said Thorp. "If 75 percent of seniors are licensed in 2025 that equates to 6.5 million licensed drivers on the road."

California has no upper driving age limit and state law prohibits the Dept. of Motor Vehicles from using age alone to require a behind-the-wheel test at renewal. However, motorists 70 or older must renew their license in person rather than through the mail.

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