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Auto Club and Rancho Los Amigos Rehab Center to Offer Free CarFit Program for Older Drivers

(DOWNEY, March 26, 2012) — To launch the Automobile Club of Southern California’s web site and in recognition of Occupational Therapy Month, older drivers in Downey can get “fit” to drive safely as part of the Auto Club and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center upcoming CarFit® program.  The program is designed to help seniors over 55 learn how the effects of aging change the way they fit in their vehicle and how their driving can be affected. 
The free-by-appointment only CarFit event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4, at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, 7601 E. Imperial Highway,  90242.  Required appointments scheduled every 20 minutes can be made by calling Mary Hernandez or Dearlise Sowell at 562- 401-7464. 
CarFit’s 12-point, 15-minute checklist on the driver and the car, includes reviewing seat-belt adjustment, foot pedals, vision and mirrors and other aspects to ensure that senior drivers are “correctly fitted” to their vehicles.  An occupational therapist who specializes in driver rehabilitation will offer advice on ways a driver can maintain and strengthen their driving health, including places where they can go for further evaluation regarding adaptive devices, exercise and nutrition.
The senior population in California is growing rapidly and the state has the most adults over age 65.   “If 75 percent of seniors are licensed in 2025 that will equal 6.5 million licensed drivers,” said Anita Lorz Villagrana, the Auto Club’s community affairs and traffic safety manager.
“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.  The Auto Club, and agencies it has trained, have provided car “fits” to 3,000 senior motorists throughout the Southland. 
According to Rancho’s Occupational Therapy Driving Evaluator, Gerontologist and Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist Sandra Okada “occupational therapists are concerned with functional abilities, not chronological age when assessing driving skills.  We assess how a motorist might continue to drive, whether with adaptive equipment or modified techniques so individuals can get to their activities and appointments.” 
CarFit gives a quick, comprehensive check by occupational therapists, senior living specialists and traffic safety health educators on how well a senior driver and their vehicle work together.  CarFit was developed by the American Society on Aging with AAA, AARP and American Occupational Therapy Assoc.
Lorz Villagrana noted that age affects vision, flexibility, and strength, range of motion and even size and height.  “CarFit helps drivers make adjustments so they are more comfortable and have more control behind the wheel,” she said.
California has no upper driving age limit and state law prohibits the Dept. of Motor Vehicles from using age 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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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.