MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel police have a long history of assisting parents with free child safety seats and inspections, but on Thursday their focus was on the other end of the age spectrum.In partnership with the Mount Carmel Senior Center, the MCPD conducted a senior “CarFit” vehicle check at the Mount Carmel City Park.MCPD Chief Mike Campbell and Senior Center director Wanda Davidson both recently completed certification to be CarFit inspectors — checking the vehicles driven by seniors to ensure they “fit” properly in their vehicles and understand their vehicle safety features.“There’s a number of issues that we have to get right for seniors so that, God forbid they have an accident, they’re safer in case they do have an accident,” Campbell said.Thursday the MCPD inspected 23 vehicles using a 12-point checklist to determine, among other things, if the driver’s seat and headrest are in the correct position; the driver’s ability to easily reach foot pedals; seat belt comfort and effectiveness; proper adjustment of mirrors to cover blind spots; operation of vehicle controls; and inspections of brake lights, turn signals, headlights, tire wear, tire pressure, and other routine maintenance matters.
Among the highest priorities, however, was checking steering wheel tilt to aim the airbag at the driver’s chest; and the distance from the air bag to the driver’s chest, which shouldn’t be less than 10 inches.Campbell added, “That airbag is only inflated for a fraction of a second, and at that time it needs to hit them in the chest, not up around the face and the head. Little things like the — the (steering) wheel tilt adjusted properly — will prevent them from being seriously injured in an accident.”Davidson said the seniors who went through the program Thursday provided positive feedback about the program.She said there were safety concerns she wasn’t aware of prior to taking the CarFit course.She said many of the senior drivers she passed that information along to weren’t aware of those same safety concerns as well.
“They feel much safer in their car now, where they (inspectors) found the results of some of the things they had wrong,” Davidson said.
Most of the inspections conducted Thursday were scheduled in advance through the Senior Center, but many Senior Center members weren’t able to attend Thursday’s event.
Campbell said another CarFit program will be scheduled soon — not only for local Mount Carmel seniors but for anyone who wants to have an inspection.
CarFit is a national program developed by AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association. The average inspection takes 20-25 minutes.“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,” Campbell said. “CarFit provides older adults wit the tools to understand and apply the safety features of their cars.“It is critically important that mature drivers make personal safety a priority.”Campbell added, “Driving today is more difficult than ever because of increased traffic congestion, new technology, and faster speeds. Older drivers can take important measures to mitigate the stress associated with driving by attending a free CarFit event such as this one.”