Older drivers are often the safest drivers as they tend to wear their seat belts more, speed less, and are less likely to drink and drive. Yet older drivers are more likely to be killed or seriously harmed when a crash does happen due to the greater fragility of their aging bodies.
I recently attended a CarFit training that explained all this and also educated me in how to protect our older drivers behind the wheel. CarFit is an educational program begun in 2005 to offer the older adult an opportunity to check how their car “fits” them. It was created by the American Society on Aging in collaboration with AARP, AAA, and the American Occupational Therapy Association.
Driver safety programs improve adult driver safety by addressing such issues as cognitive abilities and skills and improve their safety by making sure their vehicles are properly adjusted for them. By doing so, one can greatly increase the risk associated with not only driver safety, but the safety of others as well.
So how does one go about getting one of these checks and what is covered in these CarFit events? It begins with a team of trained technicians and/or health professionals who will work with each participant to ensure they fit their vehicle. The process takes about 20 minutes and includes a series of checklists to suggest minor alterations and adjustments to the vehicle. Local resources that could enhance their safety and mobility are also provided for further assistance.
The next CarFit event taking place in Miami-Dade County is 9:30 a.m. to noon March 31 at Arcola Lake Senior Center, 1301 NW 83 St. To register for this event and for more information about the program, visit www.car-fit.org.
The checklist will examine 12 points:
▪ Are you the only driver? There’s a difference on how each person sits relative to the steering wheel and adjusts the seat and mirrors.
▪ Seat belt check. The proper way to use a seat belt is for the lap belt to fit low and tight over the hip and pelvis area and the shoulder belt to lay across the collar bone away from the neck and cross over the breast bone to fit snugly across the chest.
▪ Steering wheel tilt and position to airbag and head rest. The driver should be sitting at least 10 inches away from airbag and positioned to face the driver’s chest and not face.
▪ Distance between chest and steering wheel
▪ Line of sight above the steering wheel
▪ Position of gas pedal
▪ Position of brake pedal
▪ Mirror adjustments to help evaluate driver’s ability to use rear view and side view mirrors effectively.
▪ Neck mobility and blind spot check. This check determines if driver is able to adequately check vehicle’s blind spots.
▪ Ignition key or system
▪ Operation of vehicle controls
▪ A review of the checklist is then conducted and any questions or concerns are addressed.
These tips and checklists can definitely be of use to our older adults but they should also be applied to anyone of any driving age for the safety and well-being of anyone operating a vehicle. Until next time, be aware and be safe!