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Local News

UWF "CarFit" Event To Improve Older Driver Safety

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CarFit
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The University of West Florida Center on Aging is hosting a CarFit event this week on the UWF Main Campus. The CarFit program teaches older adult drivers how to make their personal vehicle “fit” them better for increased mobility and improved safety when they hit the road.

The UWF Center on Aging has been tapped to host the two-day Pensacola event. The first day, Wednesday, April 8, has been designated as a training day for volunteers. It will take place at the UWF Commons from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The public portion is scheduled for Thursday, April 9 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at parking lot SP-2, between the UWF softball and soccer fields. Individuals who’d like to participate are being asked to register by calling the Center on Aging office at 850-474-3298.

CarFit was developed in 2005 by the American Society on Aging, in collaboration with AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Specifically, the CarFit program was created to assist drivers, who are at least 50 years old. So, it was a natural fit to reach out to the UWF Center on Aging to be a host site. The center’s Director Dr. Rodney Guttmann says this week’s event at UWF will have a special significance, marking a milestone in the program’s history.

“We agreed to take this on, and then a few months later they did the calculation and realized that low and behold Pensacola is going to be the site of the 50,000th older adult to be “CarFitted,” Guttman said. “They were obviously very excited that the program has been so well received across the nation. These events are being held all over.”

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Credit University of West Florida
Dr. Rodney Guttmann, director of the UWF Center on Aging.

Given the number of older adult drivers on the road now and expected to be in the years to come, Dr. Guttmann says there is a need for such a car safety program. “As you know, the baby boomer generation is retiring. I think 1,000 a day are turning 65; and that’s projected to continue for some time now,” said Guttman. “So, as our population is healthier and living longer, we’re going to have more and more older adults on the roads.”

The projection is that by 2030, there will be 30,000,000 drivers over the age of 65.

Nationally, Florida has one of the largest populations of retirees. And, locally, Escambia County has one of the higher concentrations of older adults in the state.

Guttmann says it’s important for older adults to fit their car, so they can feel more comfortable and safer as they continue driving and maintaining that level of independence for as long as they can.

Although older drivers are often thought of as safer drivers, there’s a lot they can learn about the features of newer vehicles. Also, safety becomes more important for older drivers as they become more fragile and are more easily injured in the event of a traffic crash.

The CarFit process takes about 20 minutes and includes a 12-point check list, beginning with determining whether you’re the only driver of your vehicle.

To explain how it works, the program’s website features a number of informational videos that are hosted by AAA’s Rhonda Shah.

Next is a safety belt check. For example, one of the CarFit videos notes that the proper way for an adult to wear a seat belt is for the lap belt to fit low and tight across the hips and pelvis, not across the stomach. The shoulder belt should come over the collar bone, away from the neck, and cross over the breast bone to fit snuggly across the chest. The shoulder belt never be behind the back or under the arm.

Additionally, the steering wheel tilt, distance between the chest and steering wheel, line of sight above the steering wheel, position to gas and brake pedals, and mirror adjustments are also included on the check list.

Again, the second day of the CarFit is just for senior drivers to be fitted. Participants are encouraged to register by phone and set up an appointment, so that all can be served in a timely fashion. To register or to find out for more information, contact the UWF Center on Aging at 850-474-3298.