CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The state Department of Health and AAA Hawaii hosted CarFit, a safety program helping drivers 65 years old or older, yesterday in a parking lot at Kapiolani Community College. Volunteer Ann Low, right, went over a 12-point checklist of safety measures with driver Reta Maag, 78.
Senior safety check
Although 78, a fit and lively Lucille Wong certainly did not look or act like she needed an analysis of her driving safety.
Then she found out the signal lights she repaired recently still do not work.
Fitting car to driver
The CarFit program was created by the American Society of Aging, AARP, the American Occupational Therapy Association and AAA. According to these groups, a good fit means a senior driver must have:
» A clear line of sight -- at least 3 inches -- over the steering wheel.
» At least 10 to 12 inches between the chest and the steering wheel.
» Properly adjusted head restraints against the center of the back of the head.
» Easy access to gas and brake pedals.
» A lap belt going across the hips, and the shoulder belt going across the rib cage and not under the arm.
"I'm so glad I came, so I can go to the service station to have it fixed," said the Kahala resident. "People must've been thinking, 'How rude, that woman never signals!'"
Wong was coerced by her daughter to participate in CarFit, a national program administered for the first time in Hawaii by the state Department of Health and AAA Hawaii.
More than 65 senior drivers participated in yesterday's safety program in a parking lot of Kapiolani Community College.
Volunteers worked with participants on a 12-point checklist of safety measures for drivers 65 years or older developed by the American Society of Aging, AAA and other agencies.
"There's a real need for this program, and it's free, it's a community service," said Alexis Denny, a AAA community affairs officer.
"We're very clear that it's not a test, it's not a pass-or-fail situation," Denny said. "It's a nonthreatening environment. It's just an opportunity for us to have a conversation about safety."
While the safety checks include making sure the vehicle is safe, they also tested the seniors' driving ability. Volunteers held up fingers visible in the rearview mirror to check sight. Another test looked at neck mobility so that seniors could check if they have blind spots while driving.
"The last stop is with a therapist, and they'll work with them to find out what the real issues are," Denny said. "A lot of the problems we see can be remedied with exercise, or we might recommend them to see a physician, or some other adjustments. It's the normal physiological changes with aging that we see."
AAA Hawaii Regional Manager Richard Velazquez said the program is not meant to discourage senior drivers.
"It's designed to make them feel comfortable, to know their limitations," Velazquez said. "AAA Hawaii believes that every citizen should drive as long as they wish to drive, as long as they could do it safely."