Please consider the attached press release and photos for inclusion in upcoming news. If you are interested in interviewing Dr. DiGrado on her work with CarFit and training USAHS students to improve older driver safety, please contact me at [email protected] or 410-218-6055.
Through the university, more than 300 students have received CarFit technician training, a program designed to assist older drivers in adjusting to their vehicles more comfortably and safely
San Marcos, CA – December 12, 2016 – In recognition of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Older Driver Safety Awareness Week and in an effort to improve safe driving across the U.S., the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS), has trained more than 300 occupational therapy students to access and assist older drivers in adjusting to their vehicles more comfortably and safely.
AOTA created Older Driver Safety Awareness Week to help promote the understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation to ensure older adults remain active in the community. One initiative developed by The American Society on Aging along with AAA, AARP and AOTA is called CarFit. This is a program that works to assist older drivers in adjusting to their vehicle more comfortably and help improve the fit of the car. The program also works to promote the safety of drivers, not only through improving the fit of the car, but through communication.
“As people grow older, changes in physical, mental and sensory abilities begin to occur,” said Jennie DiGrado, OTD, professor of the USAHS Master of Occupational Therapy program and CarFit facilitator. “These transformations can lead to challenging a person’s ability to drive. Here at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, we focus on both traditional and innovative solutions in occupational therapy to help our patients of all ages. We began facilitating CarFit technician training on the San Marcos campus over the past year and have worked with more than 300 students in total.”
Older drivers are looked at as being the safest population of drivers as they are less likely to speed or drink and drive. Yet, they are more likely to be injured during an accident due to their aging bodies. Through the CarFit program, elderly drivers learn to not only make adjustments, but they develop an understanding of how to make specific adjustments. Some items looked at during a CarFit assessment include mirror adjustments, steering wheel tilt, position to airbag, position to break/gas pedal and operation of vehicle controls.
“Occupational Therapy plays a vital role for the elderly population and Occupational Therapists have an understanding of the progressive conditions that an aging individual may have,” continued DiGrado. “According to the AOTA, Occupational Therapists understand the importance of driving and its role in autonomy, independence and even self-worth. In terms of CarFit, Occupational Therapists may use their expertise of body structures and various progressive conditions often seen in the aging population to provide education on the different items available for the vehicle.”
When CarFit was pilot tested in the spring of 2005, more than 300 older drivers participated. Based on findings from the CarFit checklists completed at the events and follow-up surveys of participants, the program has proven to be highly effective. Additionally, the majority of those responding to the survey indicated as a result of having gone through the CarFit event, they have made a change to improve the fit of their vehicle, their use of safety features in their vehicle and willingness to discuss their driving with family and/or health care providers.
“CarFit is an extremely valuable program for the community, unfortunately, CarFit events do not always end up having a great turn out due to the perception that we are assessing driving and may “take away the keys,” said DiGrado. “However, this is not the case. CarFit events are created to be a safe zone to openly discuss safe driving and help educate drivers on the options that can make a car fit an individual. Most of the equipment we recommend is easy to use and allows participants more freedom to drive safely in their car.”
For more information on CarFit training at USAHS or to interview Dr. DiGrado, visit usa.edu or contact [email protected].
For more information on CarFit events in your area, visit www.car-fit.org
About Dr. Jennie DiGrado
Dr. Jennie DiGrado is an Assistant Professor for the Master of Occupational Therapy program at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. She received her bachelors in Occupational Therapy from Colorado State University and her doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Creighton University. She has worked clinically in a variety of settings which include, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, outpatient, skilled nursing facilities and home health care. Most of her clinical practice has been focused on serving individuals throughout the lifespan with neurological impairments resulting in occupational performance concerns.
About University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS)
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) is a graduate institution that emphasizes health science education through innovative quality classroom and distance education. Founded in 1979, USAHS has locations in San Marcos, California; St. Augustine, Florida; Austin, Texas and Miami, Florida. USAHS offers degree programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, education and health science, as well as continuing education programs.