Designed to help older drivers find a better “fit” with their cars, the CarFit program reached a proud milestone welcoming the 50,000th driver at a Pensacola, FL event today. The program was created through a partnership among AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to help promote conversations between older drivers and their families about driving safety, maximize safe driving independence, and help seniors get a better comfort and safety fit behind the wheel.
CarFit events use a trained team, including occupational therapy practitioners, to assist older drivers with:
- A clear line-of-sight over the steering wheel;
- Adequate space between the front air bag/steering wheel and the driver’s breastbone;
- Properly adjusted head restraints;
- Proper positioning on gas and brake pedals’
- Proper seat belt use and fit, and safe positioning of mirrors to minimize blind spots.
To help get started on the second 50,000 drivers, and to help older drivers to remain mobile in the Southland, the Automobile Club of Southern California and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey will host a CarFit event later this month. The free appointment-only CarFit will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29, at Rancho’s center, 7601 E. Imperial Highway. Appointments can be made by calling Mary Hernandez at 562-401-7464. The event is held annually here in recognition of National Occupational Therapy Month.
California has the highest number of adults over age 65 among all U.S. states. “If 75 percent of seniors are licensed in 2015, that adds up to 6.5 million licensed mature drivers,” said Anita Lorz Villagrana, the Auto Club’s community affairs and traffic safety manager. “And, more and more, seniors are driving more miles than 20 years ago,” she added.
“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 Lorz Villagrana. “As we age, changes in our vision, flexibility, strength, range of motion and even size and height may make us less comfortable and reduce our control behind the wheel,” said Lorz Villagrana. “CarFit provides older adults with the tools to understand and apply the safety features of their car.”
According to a national survey of more than 7,000 seniors, the top four “fit” challenges for older drivers included:
• Improper distance from steering wheel (59 percent);
• Adequate and safe views from the side mirrors (32 percent);
• Improper seat height (28 percent) and improper head restraint height (21 percent)
The encouraging news is that running through the CarFit 12-pt. checklist, 97 percent of participants’ issues were resolved. Other survey findings revealed that nine in 10 older drivers buckle up and more than a third have taken driver improvement courses. “These data tell us that despite the perception that seniors are a menace on the road, they’re actually among the safest drivers behind the wheel,” said Lorz Villagrana.