Just months before she was involved in a shocking car crash that sent her to the emergency room in the back of an ambulance, Lois Alston-Davis heeded advice that might have prevented true devastation.
As a part of the recommendation offered by safety experts during an event at her local senior center, she moved her car’s head rest into a lower position, which the emergency room doctor said likely saved her from a traumatic injury during the crash. She walked away with just minor injuries when her car was struck from behind.
This is proof that having your seat in the correct position, being a safe distance from the airbag, and having your head rest at the correct height really matters to driving safety. It could save your life . We get in and out of the car so often that routine can take over: we don't take the extra few seconds to make sure everything is adjusted properly and safely. And maybe we don't know exactly what adjustments to make to ensure our car is fit for safety.
Alston-Davis is glad she took that time after she attended a 20-point drive-thru assessment at a local program called Car Fit. CarFit is sponsored nationally by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).During Car Fit discussion and demonstration, Alston-Da0is learned her headrest was too high, so she lowered it to the recommended adjustment. This simple adjustment saved her during her accident months later.
Headrests are just one thing that needs attention. “We know wearing seat belts saves lives, but it’s so important those belts are correctly being worn,” says Officer Jason Swartwout from the Blue Ash Police Department, who works at the Car Fit events in the Cincinnati area. “Car Fit gives us an opportunity to educate the public in a friendly way about seat belts, mirrors, and much more.”
Here are some basic tips for a well-fit, and safe vehicle:
Make sure you have a clear line of sight over the vehicle. Your eyeline should be at least three inches above the steering wheel. If the steering wheel is covering any part of the road in front of you, then you may want to raise your seat.
Ensure plenty of room between the breastbone and the airbag. The distance between you and the airbag in your steering wheel should be at least 10 inches in order for the airbag to safely deploy without injuring you.
Properly adjust your head rest. In the event of an accident, especially a rear-end collision like Altson-Davis's, having your headrest in the right position can prevent serious whiplash. The center of the headrest should be about three inches or less from the center of your head. Make sure the center of teh headrest is not resting at your neck. If the headrest is too low, your neck could over-extend and fail to properly support your head. And if the headrest is too high, it may provide no protection at all in an accident.
Make sure your feet reach the pedals. You should be able to reach the gas and break pedals without having to stretch. Your foots should be able to completely depress the brake pedal, for sudden stops. You should also be able to move your foot easily from the gas pedal to the brake pedal which might be difficult, for example, if your seat is too close to the wheel and your knees are touching the dashboard.
Make sure your seat belt is in the proper position and is comfortable as you drive. The correct way for an adult to wear a seat belt is for the lp belt to fit low and tight across the hips and pelvis. If your seat belt rests on the soft tissue of your stomach, you could be at risk for injury. The shoulder belt should come over the collarbone, away from the neck, and cross over the breastbone for a snug fit on the chest. Never put the shoulder belt behind you or under the arm.
Everyone's car fit is different, it all depends on your shape, size, and vision. The best way for anyone to ensure their car is fit correctly to them is to get education from a Car Fit Technician.
The Car Fit program, offered through TriHealth Community Benefit/TriHealth Think First Injury Prevention Program, is one way to get this safety education. Car Fit events are run by therapists, fire department staff and police officers who have been through Car Fit Technician training. Transportation is vital to staying engaged as we age, and remaining safe while driving is part of that.
Making sure your car is fit for your safety isn't just for older individuals, it's important for anyone of driving age. Think First offers Car Fit at several TriHealth locations or check online for all the Car Fit offerings in your area.