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Event aims to ease senior drivers' woes

Peggy Dowling, age 68 of Huntington Bay, works

Peggy Dowling, age 68 of Huntington Bay, works with Birdi Jatinder from Touro College, checking her position of her foot when using her gas and brake pedals in Bayshore. (Apr. 29, 2012) Credit: Heather Walsh

Arthritis making it difficult to unscrew the gas cap? Rubber grips will help with that.

Back aches while driving? Lumbar pillows can ease the ache.

Advocacy groups for seniors offered those tips and others to older drivers participating in Sunday's CarFit -- an automobile safety inspection program designed for those motorists.

The event at Touro College in Bay Shore is part of a national effort led by groups including the AARP and AAA to educate seniors about simple modifications that can make driving easier for them.

"Sometimes people don't realize how minor adjustments can help cut down on fatigue and improve the overall driving experience," said Carrie Hessney, senior occupational therapist at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook, who coordinated the event.

Occupational therapists from the Veterans Home and Touro walked more than a dozen seniors through a checklist of suggested fixes to help with some of the physical challenges posed by aging, including arthritis or leg discomfort.

Adjusting the steering wheel either up or down based on personal comfort level, can help cut down on hand and wrist fatigue, Hessney said.

Drivers also can have support handles installed to make it easier to get out of a car's seat, she said.

Don Brown, 72, of Farmingdale, brought his cherry red 2010 Mustang -- license plate "LSTHURRAH" -- for an inspection. While he's mastered the basics of driving since first grabbing the wheel of a 1951 green and white Buick in his teens, he said a refresher always comes in handy.

"This is great because sometimes some people need reminding of what you can do to make your car safer and better to drive," Brown said.

Another CarFit event is scheduled for May 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the AAA New York headquarters, 1415 Kellum Place, Garden City. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 516-873-2364.


Among other recommendations offered at the event:

Distance between the driver's chest and steering wheel should be at least 10 to 12 inches to avoid injuries from air bags.

Head rest should be positioned against the back of the head, not neck.

Driver's line of vision should be at least 3 inches above the steering wheel.

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