A new national program designed to help older adult drivers is now making a splash in Orlando’s senior community. CarFit, created by the American Society on Aging, is a program that helps older drivers to get properly fitted in their vehicles with the goal of reducing accidents. This program has many Orlandoans with aging parents wondering — what else should I be doing to keep Mom and Dad driving independently and safely?
CarFit in Orlando
The Florida Highway Patrol held its first CarFit meeting in Orlando this week. Volunteers from various Orlando law enforcement agencies and safety groups worked with each senior driver to ensure their vehicle fit them properly.
Orlando Practice Areas
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This CarFit process includes adjusting mirrors to eliminate blind spots for drivers, adjusting seats so drivers can see properly over their steering wheel, and making sure seat belts fit comfortably while still restraining the passenger safely.
Adjusting Vehicles for Seniors Makes a Difference
These are all small fixes, but according to traffic officials, it is all too common for Central Florida’s older drivers to be driving around in a car that isn’t adjusted to fit them properly.
“I've never had my car looked at," said Judy Magdiasz, a participant in this week’s CarFit program, to the Orlando Sentinel. "I've never had it checked out.”
On average, nearly 600 older adults are injured in car accidents each day in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and nearly 6,000 older adults are killed in car crashes annually. These small fixes can be the difference between a senior seeing hazards around them and reacting accordingly and a scary accident that could have been avoided.
Along with CarFit, there are other ways that adult children can help make sure their aging parents are driving in a way that is safe, while still respecting their independence and dignity.
Encourage Mom and Dad to Visit Their Doctor
An annual check-up should be on everyone’s schedule, but it is especially important for older adults to make sure they are in tip-top driving shape each year, according to the National Institutes of Health’s senior health website. A check-up for senior drivers should include having their eyes checked and, if they wear glasses, making sure their corrective lens prescription is current and accurate. A doctor may prescribe anti-reflective lenses to reduce glare and make driving easier on a senior’s eyes.
Older adults should also have their hearing checked, to make sure they can hear honks, other motorists on the road, and other audio cues properly. If your older loved one has a hearing aid prescribed, a doctor can make sure it is working properly and worn during each drive.
A doctor can also help determine whether any prescribed medications a senior may be taking could potentially affect senses and reflexes or increase drowsiness, which could pose a driving hazard.
Prescribed Equipment From Occupational Therapists
Your elderly loved one might have great vision and hearing, but may need a little help turning their steering wheel. In this case, an occupational therapist or certified driving rehabilitation specialist can help, according to the American Automobile Association's senior driving guide}.
Specialists can prescribed seniors with adaptive equipment and aids to improve safe driving such as spinner knobs, left foot accelerators, hand controls, reduced-effort steering systems, and more.
Mature Driver Courses
Driving is a skill and even those who have been on the road for over 50 years could do with a refresher now and then.
Mature driver courses are a great way to help your aging parent to drive defensively, manage their age-related changes in vision and reaction time, and generally stay independently on the road as long as safely possible.
Better yet, in our state, drivers aged 55 and older can receive a mandatory reduction on their car insurance by taking these mature driver courses. Encouraging Mom and Dad to take one of these refresher course can save them money and help empower them to make better decisions behind the wheel as they get older.
When Accidents Still Happen
Even the most proactive and cautiously driving senior can get into an accident if others on the road are driving recklessly. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver, we may be able to help.