AARP safety program educates senior drivers

Posted: Sunday, August 10, 2003

Recent national coverage of collisions and deaths caused by senior drivers has raised questions about the adequacy of the licensing of senior drivers, and the voluntary or involuntary surrender of the licenses of senior drivers whose physical or mental limitations make them unsafe on any road or street.

While older drivers do not commit traffic violations such as speeding, drunk driving, or reckless driving to any significant degree, they do have problems when involved in driving situations requiring quick response, full vision and interaction with other drivers. Typical violations include failure to yield right-of-way, improper turning, and incorrect lane changing, passing and entering and leaving expressways.

The older driver learned to drive during the first 40 years of the previous century, well before the advent of formal driver education programs in the public school system. The older driver who has completed a formal driver training course is the exception rather than the rule.

These individuals may experience physical changes that affect driving ability and attitudes. Research shows the normal age-related physical changes begin to accelerate at age 55. Accidents per mile driven begin to increase at this same age.

The AARP Driver Safety Program concentrates on those driver education concerns important to older Americans. In the United States, there are approximately 57 million registered drivers age 50 and older. This constitutes 30 percent of all drivers on the nation's roadways, a percentage that is expected to increase significantly in the years ahead.

The AARP Driver Safety Program is an eight-hour classroom refresher for motorists aged 50 and older. In addition to considering the physical changes of the maturing driver and ways the older driver may compensate for those changes, the program provides opportunities for the participants to identify individual problem areas and apply information needed to improve driving behavior.

All instructors are trained and certified by AARP and recognized by the DMV. Drivers over 18 years may also take the program in order to have a driving citation canceled by the court. Drivers over 55 will get a reduction in their auto insurance, as provided by Alaska statute AS 21.89.020. A small fee is charged to cover the cost of materials and the training and certification of the volunteer instructors.

The next AARP Drivers Safety Program will be offered on Aug. 19 and 20, meeting each evening from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Valley Senior Center. Pre-registration is necessary, as the class is limited to 25. To register or to get further information, call Robert Palmer at 209-5344.

Robert Palmer

Juneau



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