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Bay Path Occupational Therapy program hosts CarFit event to help improve comfort and safety for drivers

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The Occupational Therapy graduate program at Bay Path University offered local drivers the opportunity to have their cars assessed with CarFit, a safety program developed by AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association to help drivers gauge and adjust the comfort and safety of their vehicles. 

At an event held last week at the school’s Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center in East Longmeadow, drivers were led through a 12-point checklist by Bay Path students who are currently obtaining their master’s degrees in occupational therapy.

“Increased traffic congestion, longer commute distances, new technology, and faster speeds have made driving more difficult for all drivers. 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,” said Andrea Cordis, Bay Path’s OT fieldwork and clinical assistant. 

Cordis is a certified occupational therapy assistant and CarFit Instructor who has been coordinating CarFit events since 2009. “Each year, I offer the students the opportunity to participate in CarFit so they can put the skills that they’ve learned in the classroom into a functional environment. It’s also a community outreach event, which is a great learning experience,” she explained. 

Students worked one-on-one with drivers to evaluate positioning of mirrors and the steering wheel, driver comfort, lines of sight, and vehicle functionality, with specific attention to deployment of airbags and proper fit of a seatbelt to prevent serious injury.  At the conclusion of the evaluation, they discussed ways to sustain and improve driving health and supplied additional resources about driver safety and vehicle maintenance.

“For so many older people, the fear is that interacting with healthcare will compromise their independence, but OT is really for helping people remain independent,” noted graduate student Gershon Rosen.

Every day, approximately 10,000 Americans turn 65, and the Census Bureau projects that in 2034, there will be 77 million people aged 65 and older, compared to 76.5 million children under 18.

“While this program is largely targeted to seniors, I would love to see it used broadly in driver’s ed programs,” said Cordis. “It’s important for all drivers to understand how much safer they can be when their vehicles fit them.”