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Groups aims to properly fit driver's seats

Wednesday - 12/18/2013, 5:22am  ET

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The person behind the wheel needs to use the controls comfortably, while making sure he or she is sitting securely with a seatbelt in exactly the right place. (WTOP File)

WASHINGTON - Most people wouldn't take a baby or small child on a drive without a proper car seat. But what about the driver's seat?

It turns out it's every bit as important to make sure it's in the correct position. The person behind the wheel needs to use the controls comfortably, while making sure he is sitting securely with a seatbelt in exactly the right place.

Prompted by safety concerns, vehicle manufacturers have created more sophisticated seatbelt and seat controls but experts say many don't know how to use them.

But help is on the way. A program called Car Fit is showing drivers how to adjust their seats to find the perfect position.

Car Fit was developed by the American Occupational Therapy Association in collaboration with the AAA and AARP. And while it began as a way to help seniors, drivers of all ages now show up at free Car Fit clinics.

AOTA's Elin Schold Davis says local clinics are listed on the Car Fit website. Community groups can also use the site to apply to host a clinic of their own.

"We provide training and all the materials on how to do a car fit event," Schold Davis says.

She says organizers are encouraged to have an occupational therapist present at clinics for those who may need modifications made to their vehicles -- from pedal extenders, to special ignition locks designed for those with arthritis.

Drivers are fitted in their own cars at Car Fit clinics. The process takes about 20 minutes, and special attention is given to make sure seatbelts are placed correctly, and the driver is high enough that any deployed airbag would hit in the chest, not the face.

"Car Fit is a great place to learn how to adjust your vehicle," says Schold Davis.

"We are not used to hopping in the car and raising the seat and bringing the seat forward to get just the right fit."

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