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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • AARP offers driver's safety course to seniors

  • Cars have changed. So have traffic rules, driving conditions, and the roads you travel every day. Some drivers age 50 and over have never looked back since they got their first driver's license, but even the most experienced drivers can benefit from brushing up on their driving skills. Thanks to the American Association of Re...
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  • “Where did you get your driver's license, out of a Cracker Jack box?” This is a quip you may have heard when faced with a driving dilemma involving a less knowledgeable driver on the roadway. Cars have changed. So have traffic rules, driving conditions, and the roads you travel every day. Some drivers age 50 and over have never looked back since they got their first driver's license, but even the most experienced drivers can benefit from brushing up on their driving skills. Thanks to the American Association of Retired Persons, a driver's safety course is offered to motorists over 50 who desire to freshen up their driving skills either in a group setting or online. Dewery Watkins, driver's safety instructor for AARP, explained that the course is designed for older drivers and identifies ways that older drivers can compensate for the physical changes that occur with age. “The course provides research-based information to help older drivers update their driving knowledge and skills,” commented Watkins. According to Watkins, by taking a driver safety course motorists learn the current rules of the road, defensive driving strategies and how to operate a vehicle more safely in today's increasingly challenging driving environment Watkins says that the curriculum most importantly provides opportunities for each individual to identify their own problem areas and apply strategies and techniques to improve their driving behavior. “Our goal is for you to become a better driver as a result of the instruction we provide,” said Watkins. Watkins explained that the AARP driver safety course objectives are to help participants understand the effects of aging on driving, provide driving strategies that take into account the changes that are experienced through age, indentify the most common crash situations that older generations face, updating the knowledge and understanding of today's roads, vehicles and other road users as well as identifying how you drive and knowing when it is no longer safe to drive. Senior drivers learn how you can manage and accommodate common age-related changes in vision, hearing and reaction time. “We look at how aging affects our driving skills such as identifying vision, hearing and over all comprehension of the road ways we travel, as well as our bodies, as we and the laws change,” commented Watkins. Senior drivers also will learn: • How to minimize the effects of dangerous blind spots • How to maintain the proper following distance behind another car • The safest ways to change lanes and make turns at busy intersections • Proper use of safety belts, air bags, anti-lock brakes, and new technologies used in cars • Ways to monitor your own and others' driving skills and capabilities • The effects of medications on driving • The importance of eliminating distractions, such as eating, smoking, and cell-phone use Watkins stressed that there are a lot of things that pertain to driving that are not knowledgeable to many older drivers. A list of recent Arkansas laws and codes are presented to each participant. “We have learned that taking medication with certain types of juices can cause blood pressure to rise and an increase in slow reaction time can be a result of taking medications before driving,” stated Watkins. Watkins pointed out that the course only last a few hours and is beneficial to the driver because a 3-year discount is credited to their insurance. According to Watkins, the course is available for a small fee to anyone that is interested in participating and more information can be found at www.aarp.org/dsp. “After completing the course, you will have a greater appreciation of driving challenges and of how you can avoid potential collisions and injuries to yourself and others,” concluded Watkins. AARP membership is not required to take the course and there are no tests to pass. Fast Facts: •Driver in the age group of 50 or older are involved in no more traffic crashes than middle-age drivers until approximately age 75, where there is an increase over drivers in middle age. •Right of way, left turns, lane changes, and driver's distraction are the primary causes of crashes involving older drivers. •Intersections are where most crashed involving older drivers occur. A greater percentage of crashes occur in the intersection for drivers in their 70s and 80s. Recent Arkansas Laws: •All driver and front seat passengers in any motor vehicle operated on a street or highway in Arkansas shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt properly secured t the vehicle. •A child who is less than 6 years of age and who weighs less than 60 pounds shall be restrained in a child passenger safety seat. If a child is at least 6 years old and at least 60 pounds in weight, a standard safety belt shall be sufficient to meet the requirements of Arkansas state law. •When approaching a police vehicle with it's blue lights flashing, you must yield the outside land to the officer. On a two-lane road you may cross the yellow line if it is safe to do so in order to yield to the officer.
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