Driver safety course tailored to older drivers’ needs

Posted May 18, 2009, at 3:11 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:52 a.m.

Do you like to drive but aren’t feeling as sharp as you once were? Well, not to worry. AARP’s Driver Safety course can have you feeling more confident.

Along with ways to navigate difficult traffic situations, you’ll learn about potential trouble spots for drivers, parking lots where cars may be coming from all directions, how to handle a blind spot and how to protect yourself from car crime.

Then there are issues such as being confronted by an aggressive driver, backing up, skidding and ways to compensate for older drivers’ physical limitations.

Aging is associated with changes in eyesight, including the narrowing of peripheral vision, an inability to see in darkness and sensitivity to glare. Hearing loss and muscle stiffness can prevent sudden movement and lengthen response time. Medication interaction can present problems as well.

According to AARP, this class will help attendees:

. Tune up driving skills and update knowledge of the rules of the road.

. Learn about normal age-related physical changes, and how to adjust driving to allow for these changes.

. Reduce traffic violations, crashes and chances for injuries.

. Drive more safely.

The class also teaches about seat belt myths, what to do if threatened with a head-on crash, and the three-second rule, which should be practiced regularly.

Defensive driving is crucial to safety, such as looking both ways before proceeding through a green light. It is common for drivers with the red light to sail through it anyway. Never trust that other drivers will stop just because their light is red.

And don’t assume that other drivers agree that it’s your turn to proceed through a four-way stop intersection. Always use caution. One of the biggest mistakes older drivers make is not yielding the right of way to other cars.

Drivers are reminded to use blinkers when turning and changing lanes. Often, other drivers will be courteous and let them “cut in” if the intent is made clear. Of course, sometimes the other driver won’t be so courteous, so be sure you are being waved in before you make your move.

One goal of the class is to make seniors aware of these situations. While the class is open to anyone, it is specifically tailored to the mature driver, addressing changes that occur from aging.

“The class makes you aware of newer safety hazards,” said Susan Poole, driver safety instructor. “The roads have changed and even the way they are marked has changed. It is all different from decades ago when we all learned to drive.”

There are no written or road tests in the class, just lots of vital information – some just a refresher and some focusing on new driving hazards.

The class is limited to 25 people and there is a $12 fee for AARP members, $14 for nonmembers. You must bring your AARP card with you to get the $2 discount.

This class used to be an eight-hour course, but it has been revamped and downsized to four hours. It offers the same information, but less class discussion.

EAAA will offer the class 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday, May 12. Bring a lunch. A one-hour break is built into the class.

To register for the class, call EAAA at 800-432-7812. It fills up quickly, so if necessary, we’ll put you on a waiting list for the next one.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Higgins Taylor at chtaylor@eaaa.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, 800-432-7812, e-mail info@eaaa.org or log on EAAA.org. TTY 992-0150.

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