CRANBERRY TWP — Advancements in technology have made vehicles smarter and easier to use, with additions such as blind-spot detection and backup cameras included in most new vehicles.
For mature drivers, adapting to those changes and feeling comfortable behind the wheel can be challenging. On Thursday, Cranberry Township police and EMS agencies, along with AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association aimed to help older drivers adjust to their vehicles.
The annual CarFit event at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center started about five years ago, according to Cranberry police Sgt. William Ahlgren. He said the 45-minute sessions aim to help older drivers be at their best when they're behind the wheel. Officials go over a lengthy checklist aimed at making drivers more comfortable.
“We want to make sure they know how to do all the adjustments in their cars because things have changed tremendously over the years with technology,” he said.
Those adjustments include looking at the steering wheel angle, head restraint height, seat position, mirror settings and other controls. Mirror settings are likely the most important adjustment, according toTerri Rae Anthony, safety adviser for AAA East Central. She said blind spots get bigger as people age.
“We show them a way to set their mirrors, so that their blind spots are smaller,” she said.
Ahlgren said occupational therapists also help drivers learn to get in and out of their vehicle comfortably, and adjust their seats, so they are neither too close or too far from the steering wheel and pedals. He said adjusting seat belts can be a challenge for those with mobility issues, so officials work to show older drivers how to properly use them to be less painful and prevent serious injury.
“The premise is if you fit better in your car, you'll be able to drive more safely,” Anthony added.
Anthony said while new technology can help older drivers, it is not always an option.
“A lot of people can't get a new car, so we make it work with what they have,” she said.