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Getting streetwise, road-wary
Roads, an oft-quoted aphorism goes, are only as safe as the worst driver.
Unfortunately for many of today’s drivers, the effects of age hamper one’s ability to avoid coming into contact with those “worst” drivers.
“We are an aging society. We start to lose physical abilities,” says Lee Stanley, a volunteer instructor for AARP Driving Safety Classes in Sequim.
“First to go are usually the eyes,” she says. “We’re not reacting as quickly.”
Stanley helps lead driving classes each month that help keep local drivers on the defensive, managing local roadways that can present numerous challenges.
“Most of our roads are only two lanes,” Stanley says. “We talk about bicyclists, how to deal with them, and with people walking on the shoulder of roads. We talk about getting around (drivers) turning left … and water on the roads.”
And yes, even some information about Sequim’s roundabouts.
It’s just part of the package in the AARP Driving Safety Classes, held at various Sequim locations through June (see box).
The next AARP Driving Safety Class is Feb. 27-28 and another is scheduled for March 7-8 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 525 N. Fifth Ave., Sequim.
The two-day, eight-hour classes include guided instruction, videos and more. Participants get a workbook with tips, statistics, quizzes, exercise examples and, in particular, reminders of the rules of the road.
The focus, Stanley says, is on defensive driving.
“It’s about giving the right-of-way instead of taking the right-of-way,” she says.
Part of the information focuses on how to spot aggressive drivers.
“Don’t challenge him; just keep out of his way,” she says. The class teaches “how to be aware of what the other (driver) is doing.”
Other information includes tips on exercises for older drivers.
Class participants 50 and older get a bonus: savings on their car insurance. By Washington state law, car insurance companies must offer a reduction in rates to clients who are older than 50 and present the certificate provided at the conclusion of the class; rate varies by company. Class certificates must be renewed every two years to assure that discount.
Other information the AARP provides include these guides:
• “Carfit: Helping mature drivers find their perfect fit”
• “Take a Walk! AARP driver safety and mobility options (for pedestrians)
• “Your Road to Confidence: A Widow’s Guide to Buying, Selling and Maintaining a Car”
• “You and Your Car: A Guide to Driving Wellness”
• “At the Crossroads: A Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia & Driving”
Spanish-speaking classes are possible, too, Stanley says; two or more are needed to initiate a class and workbook material is in Spanish.
“We would love to get them involved,” Stanley says of Spanish-speaking drivers.
Give up the keys?
Stanley knows as well as any student she teaches that the idea of giving up driving isn’t an easy decision.
“I know I’m going to be angry (when I give up my keys),” she says. But if she makes her own choice to not drive, she says, “I won’t be nearly as angry as if my kids, my best friends, my caretaker makes the decision for me.”
The reality of that aging population, she notes, is that drivers need to consider their limitations.
A significant sign that someone might need to stay off the road, she says, is day-to-day memory loss.
Stanley says the class offers good tips for senior drivers, such as simply pulling over and getting a hotel rather than trying to make the trek back to the peninsula from Seattle.
Volunteer with AARP
Stanley says the AARP group always is looking for instructors. Volunteers have to be licensed drivers and like to talk with people. Volunteers teach three classes per year and they do not have to be AARP members.
“It’s a way to pay back to the community,” she says.
AARP classes and volunteer opportunities are available across the county. Call 866-955-6298.