Seniors Sharpen Driving Skills

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Remember the feel of taking the steering wheel for the first time? Who forgets the power and freedom that came with having four wheels under your control?

And for many people in Rim country, getting their first driver's license was decades ago and they still think they are the best drivers on the road.

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Aggie and Bob Hanson are helping seniors in the Rim country refresh their driving skills by teaching AARP's 55-Alive Driving Course.

But age does change things. Over time, reflex and reaction get slower. Eyesight and hearing begin to diminish and a person once thought of as a very safe driver may now be at risk.

To make folks aware of these concerns, Bob and Aggie Hansen team up to teach 55 Alive a driving course for seniors.

"It's a refresher course," Bob said.

"We create awareness in older drivers that their reflexes, their thought processes, their hearing, their eyesight all that stuff doesn't work like it used to," Aggie said.

Taking between 10 and 25 students at a time, the Hansens teach the class in Pine about four times each year. The class is offered once a month in Rim country and costs $10 for materials.

For that $10 investment, there is the possibility that you will get between 5 and 15-percent off your insurance premiums, Aggie said.

Most insurance companies will apply the discount for three years, so many of her students come in about every three years.

And most appreciate the reminders they get, the couple said.

"One thing we do when we first start the class is take a self-assessment," he said. "It is not a test, but it tells you where are you today in your driving thoughts and habits. Then we go through the assessment again at the end and things change."

"They see what they do not know," Aggie said. "It is for their eyes only."

"It is not our job to humiliate anybody," Bob said.

The class time is spent reviewing those details that might have faded over the years. There are new challenges in today's driving world and the Hansens suggest ways to cope.

"We suggest ways to compensate," Aggie said. "If you are not comfortable on the freeway because of the speeds, then take other routes."

If you are uncomfortable with making a left turn, make a series of rights through a parking lot or side streets.

"We tell them with airbags now you hold your hand at a different position on the steering wheel," Bob said. Putting your hands at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock will help prevent broken wrists and arms should an airbag deploy.

"If you are ferrying around grandkids under 12, they need to be in the back seat because of the air bags," Aggie said.

Keeping older folks safe is another goal of the Hansens. They recommend an inspection of the car, including the underneath before getting in.

If you do not have a cell phone, get a toy or an older unused one to make it look like you are calling for help, it may deter a would-be car-jacker, they said.

"We also refresh them on the signs, the shapes and the colors of them," Bob said.

They talk about medications, alcohol and how mixing any of these can adversely affect a driver. They suggest that each person make a list of any drugs they are taking and check with a pharmacist about drug interactions.

"Those things affect older people differently," Aggie said. "It doesn't burn off as fast and most older people do take medication. We want them to become safe drivers, avoid accidents and maybe save money. Even people who take (the course) who do not get the discount have come up afterward and said it was worth it," she said.

For more information call the Hansens at 476-4298.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself

Every day it seems traffic gets more congested, cars move faster and for many, driving becomes very stressful and, quite simply, a hassle. Is that the case with you?

Ask yourself the following questions.

1. Do you sometimes say, "Whew, that was close." Yes No

2. At times, do cars seem to appear from nowhere? Yes No

3. At intersections, do cars sometimes proceed when you felt you had the right of way? Yes No

4. Are gaps in traffic harder to judge? Yes No

5. Do others honk at you? Yes No

6. After driving, do you feel physically exhausted? Yes No

7. Do you think you are slower than you used to be in reacting to dangerous driving situations? Yes No

8. Have you had an increased number of near-accidents in the past year? Yes No

9. Do you find it difficult to decide when to join traffic on a busy interstate highway? Yes No

10. Do intersections bother you because there is so much to watch for in all directions? Yes No

  • * * * *
  • If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have perhaps had a close call for an accident. It is important to replay and analyze these near misses because we can learn from them. Ask yourself:

  • Could I have prevented the situation?
  • Should I have reacted differently?
  • Did I fail to see something?
  • Why was the other driver honking at me?

This quiz is provided as a service of AARP 55 ALIVE. Your results are neither recorded nor transmitted to any other entity or organization.

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