Class refreshes drivers on driving as they age |

Class refreshes drivers on driving as they age

JOHN GARDNERGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox

The little-old lady from Pasadena could have benefited from a driving course Colorado Mountain College offers, in partnership with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), designed for senior drivers.The Driver Safety Program, formerly known as 55 and Alive, is designed for people 55 and older who need a little refresher in driving laws and techniques.”We don’t teach driving,” said volunteer instructor George Morris. “Everyone knows how to drive. We teach them how to adapt their driving habits with conditions like hearing or sight loss.”CMC and AARP have been conducting the class for the past 20 years, Morris said. The course is much more than just learning how to drive as you age – it teaches about new automobile technologies and updates the drivers on new traffic laws or laws that may have changed over the years, he continued.”A lot of the students don’t know about some of the newer technologies in automobiles,” Morris said. “Some of them buy a new vehicle and they can’t reach the pedals, but a lot of the newer cars have adjustable foot pedals.”

Safety is a focus of the class, which teaches how to prevent accidents and how to deal with safety technology that has changed over the years.”A lot of emphasis is put on air bags and how to buckle up grandchildren in the back seat properly,” Morris said.The course also covers driving techniques on exiting and entering the highway with limited sight or hearing, how to deal with roundabouts and how not to be a victim of road rage.”It’s really the same things as driver safety for teenagers,” Morris said. “We just want to learn how to adapt and be safe.”The program began in 1969 when AARP started the Defensive Driving Course of the National Safety Council. The program changed to 55 and Alive in 1979 and continued teaching defensive driving but included information on age-related cognitive and physical changes that could potentially affect driving behaviors and how to adjust driving to counteract those changes, according to the AARP Web site.

The program is taught by volunteers, like Morris, and keeps growing year after year. As of December of 2006, more than 14,000 seniors graduated from the program annually, according to statistics on the AARP Web site. Additionally, statewide there are 851 courses taught by 283 volunteers annually.”We’ve got a very positive partnership with CMC,” Morris said.He’s been teaching the class for 10 years with CMC and usually has from four to six classes a year. Most often, Morris said, his students are repeat students that are there for the auto-insurance discount required by the state to graduates of the class.”They have to take the class every three years to get the discount,” he said. “That’s why most of them are there, but when they leave they realize that the discount is second to what they learned about driving strategies.”Morris, along with Joe O’Donnell and Bob Lawton of Glenwood Springs, volunteer to teach the course. Morris said that teaching it has been beneficial to him as well.

“It’s very enjoyable,” Morris said. “Every time I teach the class I learn something new.”Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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