Age generally brings the wisdom the buckle up behind the wheel, to observe speed limits and to drive sober. Driving, nonetheless, can be risky business for older drivers. Even a minor crash can injure or kill an older, frailer driver. CarFit, a pilot program, puts ergonomics principles to work to make the roads safer for them. It offers a way to check if their vehicle is a good fit.
It’s a timely intervention. Adults over the age of 65 are the fastest growing demographic in the United States. By the year 2030, one out of every five drivers will be over 65.
An educational program, CarFit was created by the American Society on Aging and developed in collaboration with AAA (American Automobile Association), AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association.
A 12-point checklist determines whether adjustments need to be made to a car. The test takes approximately 20 minutes, and covers features that can be adjusted to improve the fit. The CarFit web site provides a FAQ about the program and information on where to sign up for the assessment.
The FAQ points out that knowing how to adjust the mirrors can greatly minimize blind spots for drivers who want to change lanes. And good foot positioning on the gas and brake pedals is important: if the driver is reaching with his or her toes to press on the pedals, it can cause fatigue in the leg and slow reaction times.
On the web site drivers are advised about the risks of sitting closer than 10 inches to the steering wheel. And any closer than 12 inches, they can be injured by the air bag – too close can be more dangerous than no air bag.
The program also provides information and materials on driving safety resources that are specific to individual communities.