AARP's Driver Safety Program course is designed for everyone

Gloria Farley, veteran AARP safe driving instructor and Associate State Coordinator of Washington State Zone IV, taught a class of 25 students at Peninsula Senior Center in Klipsan Beach last Friday and Saturday. She says, "The driver safety program is available for drivers of all ages." Earning the certificate may also save drivers over 50 some money on their car insurance. KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo

KLIPSAN - "Every time I teach the driver safety class I learn something new and I've been in police work and dealing with traffic laws for over 13 years," volunteer instructor Loretta Ostgaard says of the driver safety program she and Gloria Farley offer at the Peninsula Senior Center in Klipsan Beach.

Farley, who is associate state coordinator of Washington State Zone IV and director of nine counties, says, "The driver safety program is available for drivers of all ages." She taught a group of 25 students last weekend at the Senior Center. Tom Darcy of the Department of Licensing and a WSP trooper also often help Farley with the instruction and demonstrations.

"One of the main reasons most of the people attend is that they can get a discount on their auto insurance premiums after age 50 when they complete the AARP driver safety course," Ostgaard relates.

Farley explains, "As the body ages, reaction time often slows. This class helps teach how to compensate for life's changes."

Another critical question for families and aging drivers is if and when to retire their driving privileges. Booklets "At the Crossroads" and "We Need to Talk ... Family Conversations with Older Drivers" are a part of the curriculum. The booklets are put out by AARP and The Hartford insurance company.

The course runs two days with sessions from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are eight videos and each is followed by answering questions and discussions. The first major topic deals with knowing ourselves as drivers. Such things as vision, hearing, reaction time, flexibility and possible impairment from medication or alcohol are discussed.

Safety strategies are then presented to help compensate for any physical problems that a driver may have to overcome. Keeping a three-second cushion, parking lot and intersection hazards, backing up, adverse weather conditions and avoiding head-on crashes are part of the course.

There is a section on sharing the road with trucks, school buses, emergency vehicles, two-wheel vehicles, pedestrians, impaired drivers and aggressive drivers. Road signs, signals and markings are a part of another unit and city, rural and interstate driving strategies are also included in this section.

A unit on understanding our vehicles is helpful. Making sure the vehicle's safety belts, air bags and head restraints fit you and that you fit the vehicle are part of this section. Anti-lock braking systems, vehicle maintenance and repair, and new technology are discussed with an eye on selecting the driver's next vehicle.

The course concludes with an assessment of each driver's knowledge, skills and other transportation options one may have. A frank discussion on approaching others about considering their driving retirement is included. There is a pre-test and a post-test, followed by each participant making resolutions about their driving future.

The refresher course is eight hours in length and includes only classroom activities. At the end of the two-day class members receive a certificate of completion that they may take to their insurance companies for a possible premium discount. The cost of the course is $10 and the next session is tentatively set for August or September. For more information about upcoming classes call Gloria Farley at 665-6419 or e-mail her at gfarleydspasc@msn.com.

"I've had guys who have been truck drivers for years take the course and at the end they always seem to tell me they have learned something new and useful," Farley says. Ostgaard concludes by adding, "The class is very cool to teach and those who take it always find it very rewarding."

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