LORAIN COUNTY, Ohio — Usually it’s teens and young drivers we worry about getting behind the wheel, but Lorain County Public Health officials fear more senior citizens could be at risk of getting hurt or killed.
Katie Bevan, Program Manager at Lorain County Public Health, says more than 19 people died in car crashes throughout the county last year. She says six of them were older adults ages 55 and up.
“Some of the factors that we're noticing and with the data from those crashes, injury or fatals that have to do with failure to yield as well as making sure there’s a sure clear distance,” Bevan said. “What we’re trying to do is take a closer look at one piece of the puzzle, which may be Car Fit.”
Car Fit is an educational program that provides a review of how well you and your vehicle work together. It was developed by AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association.
“Cars are not custom fit to our bodies; they’re generic, and we have to tweak it as best we can to make it fit us,” said AAA Safety Advisor Lori Cook.
Cook says it’s important for seniors to feel comfortable driving with physical limitations. Older drives may need to find ways to cope with changes that include visual impairments, stiff neck or limited head rotation, and reduced overall range of motion and flexibility. It’s why Cook says customizing an older adult's car is crucial to keeping them safe on the road.
“We go through a 12-point checklist in an event like this to give seniors a chance to know what they can fix just on the basics of driving,” she explained. “It’s not that older drivers can’t drive and they can’t do those skills, it just takes them longer to process the information.”
Cook says adding things like swivel seats, extended rear view mirrors and head restraints could also help.
The program is set to start in Lorain County this summer. Officials will team up with Lorain County Public Health to search for volunteers interested in training to become Car Fit experts.