Cruising Down the Highway of Life

By: Alere Staff
Publication Date: Mon, 12/01/2014

Cruising Down the Highway of Life

When our cars require maintenance or have problems, the first thing most people do is call a mechanic. Unless you know the rules behind vehicle workings, you get nowhere fast in repairing your car. The same thought applies to your driving skill set and knowing the ever-changing rules of the road. Did you know you can also “tune-up” your driving skills?

Driving Statistics

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 17 percent of all traffic fatalities and 9 percent of all traffic injuries in the United States in 2012 were among people 65 and older. Traffic fatalities among people 65 and older, in comparison to the prior year, increased by three percent and traffic injuries increased by 16 percent.1 If you are a patient on warfarin and are involved in a car crash, the injuries you experience could be more severe than the average person. Since warfarin is an anticoagulant, helping to prevent blood clots from forming or growing larger in your blood, if you receive an injury it could be harder to stop major bleeding. Safety on the road is key particularly when, in 2011 alone, there were 35 million licensed older drivers, meaning there was a 21 percent increase from 2002.1

AARP is Here to Help

A resource that many people are unaware of is AARP’s Driver Safety Program. Some may be familiar with the AARP "55 Alive" program. When it was started in 1979, the program goals were to help keep senior drivers "independent, safe and confident" on the road.2 Revisions to the program and course have been made throughout the years, making sure to keep up to date with transportation research.

On January 14, 2014, AARP launched the AARP Smart Driver™ Course as part of the AARP Driver Safety program. Despite the name change, the AARP Driver Safety program is still an excellent resource for today's "cruising" senior population.

The AARP Smart Driver™ Course is currently the largest refresher course for drivers in the country. You may wonder, even after the previous statistics, why should an "experienced" driver take a refresher course? It is a good idea as it may be 30 plus years since you took a driving course. During that time, rules of the road have changed as well as the make and models of vehicles. The benefit of taking this course is that you are being updated on safe vehicle operation in today's challenging environment of driving. Defensive Driving techniques are reviewed, and you'll also learn how to manage changes in vision, hearing and reaction time that may have occurred since you started driving. Other important topics include:

  • 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, antilock brakes and new technology found in cars today
  • 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 using a cell phone

While the rules of the road do change from year to year, there are other things to consider including how our body changes as we get older. Senses like sight and hearing are important things to keep sharp when on the road as well as reaction time. It’s important to note that, of all drivers, older drivers involved in fatal car accidents had the lowest proportion of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration at or above the legal limit.1

Course Outcomes

Perhaps the best part about these courses is that there are no tests that are required to "pass".  The outcome of this course is to ultimately help you, the licensed driver, have a better understanding of the daily challenges faced by driving and how to avoid accidents and injuring yourself or other people. You will receive a certificate of completion that you can provide to your insurance agent for a possible reduction to your auto insurance premiums (Note: varies by company).

To register for this class, available in both English and Spanish, you can visit the AARP website www.aarp.org/findacourse. Classroom Courses cost $15.00 for AARP members and $20.00 for non-members.* You may also take this course online for $17.95 for AARP members or $21.95 for non-members. AARP has over 4000 volunteers nationwide to facilitate their program. Register for the course today. 

*In the state of New York, the AARP Smart Driver classroom course is $20 for members and $25 for nonmembers. For the online course, the prices are $25.95 for members and $29.95 for nonmembers. The additional costs cover course-related expenses, including fees payable to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

References:

  1. Traffic Safety Facts: 2012 Date (Revised May 2014). U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved November 20, 2014 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812005.pdf
  2. AARP Driver Safety. AARP Driver Safety Debuts a New Refresher Course in 2014 (October 2013). AARP. Retriever November 21, 2014 from the AARP website: http://www.aarp.org/home-family/getting-around/driving-resource-center/info-10-2013/driver-safety-refresher-course-2014.html
  3. AARP Driver Safety. Why Take a Driver Safety Course? (November 2013). AARP. Retrieved  November 21, 2014 from the AARP website: http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/info-05-2010/why-take-a-driver-safety-course.html.