Yesterday, Thursday, January 31, 2013 we held a CarFit event with a goal of keeping area seniors safe on the roads. Driving experts staged a new safety program designed to help seniors find out how the “fit” of their personal vehicle affects their driving. Older adult drivers lined up their vehicles at Heron’s Glen to take part in CarFit, an innovative national program designed to give a quick comprehensive check on how well an older driver and their vehicle work together. The event also provided motorists with community traffic safety resources intended to keep them driving safely longer.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Abby Services, Inc conducted CarFit check-ups in North Fort Myers. The CarFit program was created by the San Francisco-based American Society on Aging and developed in collaboration with AAA (American Automobile Association), AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association.
“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 Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott “CarFit provides older adults with the tools to understand and apply the safety features of their vehicles.
At yesterday’s CarFit event, trained volunteers completed a 12-point checklist with 26 drivers. Among the items checked: Is the person positioned correctly in the driver’s seat? Can the person reach the pedals easily? Does the person know how to adjust mirrors properly or have the flexibility to use the mirrors?
After visiting the trained volunteer professional, the driver consulted with an occupational therapist who, if needed, discussed ways drivers can maintain and improve aspects related to their driving health. The therapists also provided information to participants addressing individual needs, including information about local community resources on exercise, nutrition and other programs to help keep them safe on the road.
The utility and value of the CarFit program is evidenced in the evaluation ratings provided by the trained volunteers and participants and by follow-up questionnaires sent to the participants 30 days after completion of the program.
In looking at evaluation ratings from the 2005 pilot CarFit events:
• Nearly every volunteer (98%) recommended the continuance of CarFit events in their area and 9 out of 10 stated that they would be very likely to volunteer for future CarFit events.
• Almost 9 out of 10 participants (89%) said they would recommend CarFit to friends or relatives.
• Ninety percent of participants said that the CarFit event was useful.
• Thirty-seven percent of CarFit participants had at least one red flag with 18% having two or more. Occupational therapists or driver rehabilitation specialists demonstrate devices and techniques to address concerns considered high-priority safety issues.
• Of those participants responding to the 30-day follow-up questionnaire:
• 88% reported making at least one change after attending the CarFit event.
• Changes to the head restraint (54%), left outside mirror (42%), right outside mirror (34%), the distance between chest and steering wheel (30%), and the line of sight above the steering wheel (28%) were cited as the most frequent changes by participants to improve the car/driver fit.
• Almost 8 out of 10 (78%) of participants said that they already discussed the CarFit event with friends or relatives.
• Since participating in the CarFit event, nearly 60% of respondents said that they discussed their own driving with friends, relatives, a physician, or other health care providers.
“It is critically important that mature drivers make safety a personal priority,” said Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott “Driving today is more difficult than ever because of increased traffic congestion, longer commute distances, larger vehicles and faster speeds.
Older drivers can take important measures themselves to mitigate the stress associated with driving. .” Older drivers can also check with their local AAA club and AARP chapter, which provide driver refresher courses for older road users or occupational therapy driving evaluation programs for individualized assessments and recommendations. CarFit represents an extension of those classroom programs, and an opportunity for older drivers to make sure their personal vehicles are adjusted to their needs.
To schedule a free event in your community please call our Community Relations line at 239-477-1400.