"I play tennis regularly and had one player say to me he's been driving for 70 years and doesn't need to take a class. I told him, 'are you playing tennis as well as you did 70 years ago?' He said, 'of course not!' I said, 'I rest my case,'" Besser said.
Earlier this year, Besser was trained as an AARP Smart Driver Course instructor. Since June, he has taught the eight-hour course to more than 100 fellow residents at the La
On Wednesday, volunteers from the national CarFit program visited La
This included learning how to adjust mirrors to minimize blind spots, how to apply emergency brakes and flashers and the proper adjustment of headrests, seat height and seat distance from the steering wheel.
CarFit event coordinator
"Seniors today need this because today's cars provide too many distractions," said Vatz, who drove down from
CarFit was launched in 2006 after an earlier pilot program in 10 U.S. cities found that 37 percent of the 300 senior drivers tested had at least one critical safety issue needing assistance. These included sitting too close to the steering or too low to have a line of sight at least 3 inches above the steering wheel.
CarFit is a program of the
One of the first to show up for a CarFit test on Wednesday was La
"I think they're great," said Weil, as she prepared to pull her Toyota Corolla into the queue for the free 20-minute fit test.
Behind Weil in line was 73-year-old
"My driving skills are as sharp as ever, but I think it's good to stay on top of these things," Burke said.
Besser said one of his students recently told him to remind everyone in his classes about the responsibility they have when they drive.
"He told me to make (students) aware that we're in control of a powerful, two-ton rocket when we're out there on the road and that driving is a full-attention task," Besser said.
"When I make some stupid mistake sometime maybe I'll have to quit driving," he said. "But thank goodness for Uber and
In 2015, there were more than 40 million licensed drivers over age 65 in the
One of the three CarFit volunteers on Wednesday was
For some drivers who have arthritis or other mobility problems that make getting in and out of cars difficult, she suggested sitting on a plastic trash bag which makes it easier to turn in and out of the driver's seat. She also suggests rubber seatbelt extenders to ease the over-the-shoulder motion of pulling on a shoulder belt.
One short-statured woman at the CarFit event Wednesday was troubled by how her seatbelt was riding too high on her chest. Garcia showed the driver how to adjust the belt harness behind her chair so the shoulder belt rides at a lower angle.
Garcia said she observes drivers' balance and gait and she checks cars for any significant amount of dents and scratches, which could indicate vision or neurological problems.
Drivers who appear to have such issues may be referred to a certified driver rehabilitation specialist, where their driving skills can be tested on a simulator. Garcia said some older drivers are fearful of losing their licenses so they avoid events like CarFit. But she said they shouldn't worry.
"We don't pull licenses or turn people in," she said. "We just want to keep them safe on the road because we care. When you feel like somebody cares, you're more accountable."
Besser said that one of his students this summer determined on his own that it was time to give up his driver's license. That's a huge sacrifice, because it can means a significant loss of independence.
Event coordinator Vatz, who is 92, said there's never been a law regulating maximum driving age because people age differently. As a result, programs like the safety course and CarFit help older drivers determine for themselves when it's time to surrender their keys.
"There are no hard-and-fast rules," Vatz said. "We see more women at these events because they live longer and tend to be healthier than men. But some women show up convinced they're aware of everything and some men are like a sponge eager to learn all they can. We're here to help."
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