CarFit keeps older drivers comfortable behind wheel

September 18, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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Teresa Steffler sits in her car Thursday as Cranberry Township police officers Michael Weleski and Tiffani Shaffer inspect her vehicle during the annual CarFit event.

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.

Teresa Steffler sits in her vehicle Thursday as Cranberry Township Patrolmen Michael Weleski inspects her vehicle during the annual CarFit event.

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.

Cranberry Township police Patrolman Michael Weleski goes over a CarFit checklist with Adams Township resident Teresa Steffler on Thursday during the township's annual event.

“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.

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J.W.  Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr. is the bureau chief of the Cranberry Eagle. Johnson is a native of Bellaire, Ohio, and graduated from Bellaire High School in 2004. He is a 2009 graduate of Ohio University in Athens with a bachelor of specialized studies degree in English and journalism. While there, he served as a reporter and editor at The Post, the university’s student-run, independent newspaper. In 2009, he was hired as a reporter for The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in Wheeling, W.Va. Over the course of eight years, he also served as Marshall County bureau chief, city editor and news editor. He also won two first place West Virginia Press Association Awards for his reporting and design work. He and his wife, Maureen, live in Carnegie.