This article appears in Winter Boomers magazine.
You’ve got experience. You’ve driven a car since you were a teen. You know all the rules of the road. Still, it may be a good idea to take a driving refresher course.
Maybe you’ve picked up a few bad habits over the years. Most likely your health or eyesight have changed and, possibly, you’re taking medication that can affect driving skills.
Most adults probably believe they are safe drivers, but taking a driving course every three years is not a bad rule of thumb, said William Van Tassel, AAA manager of driver training programs.
According to AARP, 97 percent of course participants report changing at least one bad driving habit based on the information they learned, and these behavior changes can lead to safer driving. After completing an AARP Smart Driver Course, you may qualify for a discount on auto insurance costs. Policies vary, so consult your insurance company for details.
Driving courses are available in classroom settings and online, but many drivers prefer to take a classroom-based course, Van Tassel said.
“These classes offer the advantage of being able to ask a live instructor questions and to learn best practices ... from other drivers in the course,” he said.
However, online courses use advanced learning design approaches and are more engaging and effective than before.
“They also offer convenience. You can take a course over time, on your schedule, while in the comfort of your own home,” Van Tassel said.
The art and science of driving continues to evolve, Van Tassel said.
“Vehicles change, and drivers need to know how to adapt to and use these changes. For example, today’s drivers need to know about new vehicle technologies like what is the difference between lane departure warning systems and lane-keeping assistance systems, and under what conditions will automatic forward emergency braking not activate,” he said.
Drivers also need to keep abreast of new laws, such as “move over” laws, which requires motorists to change lanes to give safe clearance to emergency vehicles or law enforcement officers on roadsides.
Staying current on driving techniques and vehicle technology can help extend someone’s safe driving career, Van Tassel said.
“For example, learning from other drivers about how they successfully self-restrict their driving can help build new habits that reduce risk, such as limiting driving at night,” he said. Traveling with a passenger when possible adds a second pair of eyes, and understanding the limitations of vehicle technologies can also help keep an older driver’s risk down, he said.
The top traffic situations that result in a crash for older drivers are left turns across oncoming traffic, turning left into traffic moving left and right, merging into a lane and changing lanes, Van Tassel said.
“The good news is that we are living longer than ever before. The challenge is that we can no longer expect to drive safely during our entire lifetimes. It is best to plan for driving retirement. Make a plan that will help you remain mobile,” he said.