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Safer driving benefits all

Mike Festa

By Mike Festa, State director, AARP Massachusetts

While many vacationing travelers hit the roads during the summer season, the month of September signals the beginning of heavily increased traffic, especially during rush hours.  Drivers are heading back to work, which means sharing the road with more vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. And, now that school is back in session, expect to see more school buses and pedestrians on the local roads.

This is also a great time to recharge your driving skills. For more than 30 years, AARP has helped to keep millions of drivers safe, educated and confident while on the road with the AARP Smart Driver course, the nation’s largest classroom and online driver safety course. Based on the latest driver safety research and insights, the course is designed especially for drivers age 50 and older. In fact, 97 percent of course participants say they’ve changed at least one driving behavior as a result of taking our course.

By taking the AARP Smart Driver Course, you’ll learn the current rules of the road, defensive driving techniques and how to operate your vehicle more safely in today’s increasingly challenging driving environment. You’ll learn how to manage common age-related changes in vision, hearing and reaction time. You’ll hear about the safest ways to reduce driver distractions, deal with aggressive drivers, learn techniques for handling left turns, right-of-way and navigating around rotaries, how to minimize blind spots, and proper use of the new technology found in newer cars.

In addition to learning safety strategies that can reduce the likelihood of a crash, you will learn how aging, medications, alcohol, and other health-related issues affect driving ability, and how to adjust driving accordingly to allow for these changes. The course also helps participants determine when it may not be best to drive (e.g., late at night, inclement weather, etc.) and how to plan for a time when driving is no longer an option.

AARP Driver Safety offers classroom and online courses. The classroom course costs $15 for AARP members and $20 for non-members. The online course costs $19.95 for members and $24.95 for non-members. Although the program is geared toward drivers 50 and older, licensed drivers of all ages are welcome to participate. There are no official tests to pass in order to graduate from the program. To learn more about upcoming classes in Massachusetts, visit www.aarp.org/drive.

If you are looking for a rewarding volunteer opportunity, consider becoming the volunteer state coordinator for the Massachusetts AARP Driver Safety program. This volunteer position is a highly visible role which requires strong leadership, communication and relationship-building skills. The state coordinator provides direction to AARP Driver Safety volunteers and works with them to enhance the overall program.

AARP Massachusetts is also looking for volunteer instructors for the four-hour Smart Driver course. Volunteers help organize and teach classroom courses at local community centers, libraries, hospitals and senior centers. By volunteering, you’ll join 4,000 other volunteers nationwide who contribute to the safety and well-being of their neighbors and community. If you have access to a computer, enjoy meeting people and are ready to make a difference in your community, fill out an interest form at www.aarp.org/volunteernow. Volunteers are reimbursed for approved out-of-pocket expenses related to program activities.

Additionally, consider hosting a Smart Driver classroom course at your facility. Participation as a host brings community members to your location and offers a meaningful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of older adults. If you can provide a free room that holds up to 30 participants, and have a DVD player and television, you can be a Smart Driver course host.

For more information or to register for classes, visit www.aarpdriversafety.org or call 888-AARP-NOW (888-227-7669). Contact AARP Massachusetts at 866-448-3621 or email at ma@aarp.org. You may also visit www.aarp.org/ma.

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