Yesterday, Wednesday, February 13, 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 Shell Point Village 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 In-Home Health Care conducted CarFit check-up in 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 41 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 a registered nurse who, if needed, discussed ways drivers can maintain and improve aspects related to their driving health. Information was also provided 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 2012 CarFit events:
• Every volunteer (100%) recommended the continuance of CarFit events in their area all of them stated they would be very likely to volunteer for future CarFit events.
• 100% percent of participants said that CarFit was useful.
• 37% of CarFit participants had at least one red flag with 18% having two or more. Specially trained individuals demonstrated devices and techniques to address concerns considered high-priority safety issues.
• 69% reported making at least one change after attending a CarFit event.
• Changes to mirrors (17%), steering wheel tilt (19%), seatbelts (33%), and multiple changes (17%) were cited as some of the most frequent changes made by participants to improve the car/driver fit.
• Over 53% of participants said they already discussed CarFit with friends or relatives.
• Since participating in a CarFit event 91% of participants said they “felt they were a safer driver since attending a CarFit event.”
• Here are a few comments from some of our participants:
o Great Program
o Very Positive o Did not realize there was a safe distance to maintain between you and steering wheel.
o Very helpful – will be changing my side view mirrors and seatbelt.
o Thank you for helping to make driving safer!
o I had a car accident a few years ago and had a lot of damage done to my chest; had I known what the safe distance was for me to sit I would not have been hurt as bad as I was.
o Very nice experience
“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.