Sometimes a slight adjustment is necessary to keep things flowing smoothly. That can apply to driving a favorite vehicle as well as anything else. Seniors with arthritis or other mobility issues may have trouble pulling a seat belt around themselves or may have difficulty turning to look when changing lanes. But there's information and help available for senior drivers with these and other issues.
The CarFit program will be at The Center at the Park, 720 Sprague Ave., beginning at 1 p.m. Oct. 2, by appointment. This is a collaboration between RSVP and the Walla Walla County Traffic Safety Task Force. CarFit is a national program designed to help older drivers find out how well they fit their current vehicle, discover things they can do to improve their fit and promote communication about driver safety and community mobility.
The CarFit website, www.car-fit.org, explained that "the effects of aging changes the way we fit into our vehicles," and local clinics provide community-specific resources to assist mature drivers. According to the website, after many years of learning to be careful, seniors are among the safest drivers anywhere. They wear their seatbelts, don't drink and drive and they usually don't drive with excessive speed. However, they are more likely to be injured or killed in a crash because of the increased fragility of their bodies. So, the emphasis is on "safety first."
During the clinic on Oct. 2, a variety of issues will be addressed, including knowing how to properly adjust vehicle mirrors to minimize blind spots. Adjusting seat belts will be checked. Another concern is the foot positioning and if the driver has to stretch to reach the pedals. Or, if you're too close to the steering column. Proximity to the steering wheel and airbag, making sure you are farther away than 10 inches, will be checked also. Equipment modifications are available that can help the mature driver have an optimum fit in their vehicle.
According to Peggy Needham, director of the local RSVP, it's a great time to bring the CarFit program to the area's seniors. "The goal is to help seniors drive safely," she said. Sometimes a senior needs just a minor modification to their car to make it easier to drive and much safer for them and others on the road. Swivel seats are available, for seniors who have a difficult time getting in and out of the car, pedal extenders are also available for those who don't want to be too close to the steering column, Needham said. Seat belt extenders are also a possibility for those who have difficulty reaching over to get hold of the seat belt to pull it across themselves because of arthritis or other mobility problems.
"We have a large population of seniors in town," said Nancy Walters, coordinator, Traffic Safety Task Force for Walla Walla County. "It's a great program that offers ways to change so they can drive. There's plenty of handy little tools to help." The focus of the program is on making safe driving much easier for the seniors. If there is enough interest in the program, Needham said, it may become something that's offered here more frequently. Drivers should arrive with the car they drive the most. Each review takes about 20 minutes and a couple needs two individual appointments. From the time you drive in to the time you drive out, it's about 30 minutes.
To schedule an appointment, call 509-527-3775.
Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.