Traffic Safety

Older Drivers in Florida Get “Fit” and Push Safety Program to Milestone

Pensacola, FL, (April 9, 2015)–Designed to help older drivers find a better “fit” with their cars, the CarFit program reached a proud milestone welcoming the 50,000th driver at a Pensacola event today.  The program was created through a partnership between AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to help promote conversations between older drivers and their families about driving safety, maximize safe driving independence, and help seniors get better comfort and safety fit behind the wheel.

CarFit events use a trained team, including occupational therapy practitioners, to assist older drivers with items such as:

  • A clear line-of-sight over the steering wheel;
  • Adequate space between the front airbag/steering wheel and the driver’s breastbone;
  • Properly adjusted head restraints;
  • Proper positioning on gas and brake pedals;
  • Proper seat belt use and fit, and safe positioning of mirrors to minimize blind spots.

“As we age, changes in our vision, flexibility, strength, range of motion and even size and height may make us less comfortable and reduce our control behind the wheel,” said Rhonda Shah, AAA spokesperson. CarFit provides older adults with the tools to understand and apply the safety features of their car.”

According to a national survey of more than 7,000 seniors, the top four “fit” challenges for older drivers included:

  • Improper distance from steering wheel (59 percent);
  • Adequate and safe views from side mirrors (32 percent);
  • Improper seat height (28 percent) and improper head restraint height (21 percent)

The encouraging news is that after a run through the CarFit twelve-point checklist, 97 percent of participants’ issues were resolved.

Other survey findings revealed that nine in 10 older drivers buckle up when they get behind the wheel and more than a third have taken driver improvement courses. “These data tell us that despite the common perception that seniors are a menace on the road, they’re actually among the safest drivers behind the wheel,” said Shah.

With Florida home to more than 3.4 million residents age 65 and older who represent 20 percent of Florida’s licensed driving population, it’s no surprise that CarFit is a popular program.  The Florida Department of Transportation through their Safe Mobility for Life Coalition is working to help reduce the number of crashes among older Floridians while also improving their safety, access, and mobility. The CarFit program is a natural fit for FDOT along with its’ state and local partnerships as they work together to help make roads safer for older drivers.