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How CarFit Can Keep You Safe on the Road

Five recommendations from CarFit to improve the "fit" of your car.

Driving is one of the most important activities for people of all ages. Driving for most people is associated with freedom and independence. The research shows us that older adults are among the safest drivers on the road because they are more likely to wear their seat belts and less likely to speed or drink and drive. On the flip side, older adults are more likely to be seriously injured in an accident due to frailty or other health conditions.

Making sure your car "fits" you well can improve your safety in the car and reduce your risk of injury. Most cars offer a variety of adjustments to improve how well your car "fits" you, but many people are not aware or have not used these adjustments. CarFit helps you use your vehicle adjustments to improve your fit and safety.

So what exactly is CarFit? CarFit is a free community educational program that provides a quick, yet comprehensive review of how well you and your vehicle work together. CarFit was developed by AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association and also provides information and materials on community-specific resources.

Below are five tips from CarFit to ensure your car is fitting you well.

Tip #1 - Check your steering wheel

There are two things to consider regarding your steering wheel (tilt and distance from your chest). Your steering wheel holds the airbag which is a major vehicle safety feature. The position of your steering wheel impacts how well that safety feature is going to work for you. Check these two steering wheel positions.

  1. Make sure your steering wheel is tilted towards your chest and not your face.

  2. Make sure you are sitting at least 10 inches away from your steering wheel.

Your steering wheel has features that should allow you to adjust these positions. Reach out to your OT or a CarFit provider if your steering wheel is not fitting you well.

Tip #2 - Check your line of sight

Line of sight refers to your ability to see over the steering wheel. It is recommended that you have AT LEAST 3 inches of visibility over the steering wheel for a clear/unobstructed view of the surrounding area. Check out the video below for how to check the line of sight.

Many people use cushions to help them sit up higher to see over the steering wheel. If you don't have a three-inch line of sight or if you are using cushions to help you see, check in with your OT or CarFit technician to see if you have features on your car that could be adjusted to improve your visibility.

Tip #3 - Check your headrest

Proper adjustment of your headrest can reduce your risk of whiplash. The center of your headrest should align with your ears and should be no more than three inches away from your head. As we age postural changes can happen that might impact how our headrest is working. Check in with your OT or CarFit technician if you feel that your headrest is not fitting you well.

Tip #4 - Check your seat belt fit

Is your seat belt comfortable to wear? Or does it dig in and irritate you? Many people don't wear their seat belt because they find them uncomfortable. Your seat belt should lay across the middle of your collar bone. If your seat belt is sliding up to your neck or irritating you, it might need to be adjusted. Check out this video on seat belt adjustments. If that doesn't work you might consider a seat belt cover to provide a soft cushion.

Tip #5 - Check your mirrors

Many accidents occur when merging or changing lanes. Having properly adjusted mirrors can reduce your risk of accidents. Recommendations for mirror adjustments have changed over the years. Check out this resource to help you properly adjust your mirrors. Making a big change at once can be distracting. It is important to make any changes to your mirror setting slowly and make sure you feel comfortable with the changes before you get on the road.

Mirror adjustments
Download PDF • 355KB

In Closing

CarFit is not designed to evaluate your ability to drive or to take away your license. It is a FREE community program designed to give older adults the tools and resources to improve the "fit" of their car. The better your car "fits" you, the safer you are on the road. A few months ago, I hosted a CarFit event, and I was a volunteer for the technicians to practice the CarFit checklist. I was surprised that my car was not fitting me that well. I ended up adjusting my steering wheel tilt and distance to the wheel. I think we all get so used to our driving positions that we don't think about it. After I made the adjustments I was much more comfortable.

This blog is to give you a few things to think about. I encourage everyone to look out for a CarFit event near you for a free check-up! AARP and AAA have great resources for older adult driving safety. Check out this resource guide for local driving resources.

CarFit Brochure_Sept 2021
Download PDF • 6.17MB

Local Resources
Download PDF • 40KB

Thanks for reading!

Jenny OT

Jenny Williams, OTR/L, OTD

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