Nearly two dozen senior drivers had a little help Thursday to determine if they are a good fit with their vehicles.
An education program called CarFit was created by the American Society on Aging with collaboration with AAA and the American Occupational Therapy Association.
The program is designed to help senior citizens recognize issues they have with their vehicle — such as seeing over the steering wheel, a seat belt strap that digs into their necks or sides and rearview mirror adjustment — and provide solutions to resolve those issues.
Thursday’s CarFit event was sponsored by AAA and S.A.L.T — Seniors and Law Enforcement Together.
“CarFit is primarily for seniors so they get the most out of their car that they can,” said Don Lindsey, AAA East Tennessee director of public affairs.
CarFit technicians direct a participant through several tasks while they’re in the driver’s seat of their vehicle.
Lindsey said the technicians look for issues a senior driver may not even realize they have and can make suggestions to help the driver deal with it better.
Once example during Thursday’s event, Lindsey said, was a woman who had a seat belt cover so the belt didn’t dig into her neck. A technician showed the woman how to lower the belt so it fit lower on her body.
Other ways to solve problems might include a wedge cushion to raise the driver up, helping them see over the steering wheel better but at the same time allowing their legs to remain lower so they can still reach the vehicle pedals.
Also, drivers are at more risk of injury if they sit closer than 10 inches from the steering wheel, and knowing how to properly adjust mirrors can minimize blind spots.
Lindsey said CarFit is not a test, an evaluation or a screening used to take drivers off the road.
Some drivers didn’t present any problems.
Ruth Powers, 80 next month, sailed through the assessment with flying colors.
“I’ve learned a quite a bit, especially about my mirrors, which I didn’t know,” she said.
Powers said she and her husband, Bob, travel frequently and rarely sit still, so she’s used to being on the road and behind the wheel.
“I don’t have any big problems. I may sooner or later,” she said.
Still, she was glad to have the behind-the-wheel assessment just to make sure things were OK.
Powers said she is glad for these types of programs for her and other seniors.
“I love it, it’s great,” she said.
Aside from AAA and S.A.L.T., there were volunteers from area assisted living facilities and the ETSU Physical Therapy program.
Dr. Ute Breese, a PT professor, said the event gave students a real-world hands-on experience to prepare them for things they will face when they graduate — especially working with geriatric patients.
“It gives them some practical applications of things they are learning in class,” Breese said.
For more information about the program, visit www.car-fit.org.