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Are Older South Florida Drivers Car Fit?

By: Jason Neufeld

The US Census Bureau has determined that by 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 or older; amounting to more than 65 million drivers considered elderly. In Florida, we already know there is no shortage of older drivers sharing the road. The elderly may find current automobile technology confounding and may simply not be aware of the proper way to situate oneself to be as safe as possible behind the wheel.

Old age invariably leads to diminished vision, depth perception, strength and reflexes. This was the impetus behind a joint effort between the American Automobile Association (AAA), AARP, American Society on Aging and the American Occupational Therapy Association to create a program called CarFit (car-fit.org).

CarFit entails a 15-30 minute in-person inspection by trained volunteers to review a variety of ergonomic and practical issues such as:

  • Is the driver optimally positioned (too much reaching one’s toes to press on the brakes or gas can significantly reduce reaction time; pedal extensions are available)?
  • Is the driver at least 10 inches from the steering wheel (this allows airbags to safely deploy in an accident; sitting too close can lead to unnecessary injury)?
  • Is the driver using their seat belt correctly (they are adjustable)?
  • Is the driver aware of how to use the safety-related technology available in their automobile? (i.e. adjusting mirrors, using high-beams, turn on fog lamps, etc…)
  • Is the driver able to see at least three-inches over the steering wheel?
  • Are the side mirrors situated in a way that minimizes blind spots?
  • Is the head restraint properly adjusted? (the center of the head restraint should not be against your neck. Instead it should be three inches or less from the center of the back of your head)

According the CarFit’s website, the program has held events in 10 cities since 2005. Over 1/3rd of participants had at least one critical issue that had to be addressed and fixed by a CarFit volunteer inspector.

Some auto insurance companies offer discounts to older drivers who complete programs such as Car Fit (and other driving-refresher courses offered through AAA and the AARP).

CarFit events are not available year round. To see if there is a CarFit inspection event available near you, in the near future, please go to www.car-fit.org. Their site has all sorts of helpful videos and provides map directions to their upcoming events around the country.

Remember, the best way to avoid injury in an auto accident….is to avoid the car accident altogether. If that is not possible, you certainly want to be positioned properly to minimize the extent of the auto-accident injury. Car Fit can help with both.

The organization recently had an event in Pinecrest, FL, which was a huge success. The next few Car Fit events in Florida, are as follows:

1/21/2014: 9 am to noon N. Fort Myers, FL Community Relations 239-258-3280
1/21/2014: 11-3 Orlando 32816, FL Fran Carlin Rogers 407 422 0991
1/24/2014: 10-12:30 Lauderdale Lakes 33311, FL Fran Carlin Rogers/Patty Mori 954 485 5150
3/4/2014: noon to 3 pm Ft Myers, FL Community Relations 239-258-3280
3/6/2014: 1 pm to 4 pm Ft Myers, FL Stacey Payne 239-258-3280
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