If you buy a new suit, you would probably have a tailor custom fit it to your body. If you’re a golfer, a lot of instructors advise that you get clubs that fit your physique and swing.
It stands to reason, then, that you should have the right fit behind the wheel of your car. After all, driving isn’t just about appearances or comfort, it’s also about safety.
That is why a national organization called CarFit offers free events aimed at helping older drivers find a better driving position, position mirrors properly and make other adjustments to be more comfortable and safer behind the wheel.
“One of the key things we look at is reducing blind spots by changing the ways seniors use their side mirrors and their (inside) mirror,” said Beth Mosher, a spokeswoman for AAA Chicago and a certified CarFit technician who has worked at fitting events. “Mirror position is the biggest change for most people who come through the program.”
CarFit, which started in 2005, is sponsored by AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association.
Technicians go through a checklist of about 20 items with drivers in about 20 to 25 minutes. Among the items on the list are if the seat position allows them to adequately reach the pedal, if the driver is at least 10 inches from the steering wheel, if they can fasten the seatbelt without needing assistance, how easily they get in and out of the car, and how mirrors are adjusted.
Technicians also make sure the horn, exterior lights, mirrors and hazard lights are working and that the driver knows how to operate them.
Though older drivers are among the safest as a group, they are most likely to have physical limitations that affect their driving.
“What we find is that seniors … might have trouble making the movement to look over their shoulder to check their blind spot, maybe because they have neck issues,” Mosher said as an example.
Occupational therapists are on hand to recommend adaptive equipment, such as grab handles that make it easier to get in and out or pedal extenders, for drivers who need more than simple adjustments.
Though the program is aimed at senior citizens, Mosher said, “We are never going to turn people away.
“I am not a senior citizen, and I have been through the program as a driver. Everyone benefits from it,” she said. “When I went through the program, one of the things that was most helpful for me was that I reduced my blind spots significantly. I always say, you’re going to leave a safer driver having been through the CarFit program.”