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Improved AARP Smart Driver Course Debuts in 2014

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For nearly half a century, AARP has played an integral role in driver education courses, such as the National Safety Council’s Defensive Driver Course (DDC). Despite the benefits of the DDC program to many drivers, the structure of the course was intended for all drivers over the age of 16, and therefore failed to meet the specific needs of older drivers. Recognizing the program’s deficiencies to older drivers, AARP initiated the “55 Alive” program in 1979, which incorporated the DDC course, “but added information on age-related cognitive and physical changes that affect drivers, and taught participants how to adapt their driving to accommodate these changes.” The 55 Alive program was later renamed to its current name, the AARP Driver Safety Course.

Over the next several years, the AARP Driver Safety Course added additional programs, and made several revisions to the program, but none as significant as the curriculum changes implemented in 2014, which were based largely upon driver safety and transportation research conducted between 2010 and 2013. AARP accredits their ability to effectuate program changes and improvements to a 3-year, $12.6 million grant, given to the AARP foundation by Toyota. As reported by AARP, changes to the program include:

• A completely new, easy-to-follow format that incorporates adult-learning principles, features reader-friendly print types, full-color pages, an easy-to-follow format and videos to supplement course content.
• New opportunities for participants to learn state-specific information throughout the course in a way that is easy to access and understand
• All components of the AARP Smart Driver Course have been translated and tested for Spanish-speaking participants

In addition, the improved program addresses specific areas of driver safety, that research has identified as uniquely problematic for older drivers, and commonly linked to automobile collision, such as:

• Roundabouts
• Pavement markings
• Techniques for adjusting mirrors to reduce blind spots
• Stopping distance and merging
• Stop-sign compliance
• Red-light running
• Safety issues such as speeding, and seatbelt and turn-signal use
• Sharing roadway with other vehicles
• Sharing roadway with vulnerable road users, such as bicyclist, pedestrians & motorcyclists

According to the National Highway and Safety Administration’s Older Driver Program, by 2020, there will be more than 40 million licensed drivers age 65 or older. For many of these older drivers, several decades may have passed since they were last involved in a formal driver safety education program. For some, the only driving education received may have been at the time of initially obtaining a driver’s license. In consideration of changes to traffic laws and roadways, the presence of more drivers than ever before, as well as diminutions in cognitive, physical, and visual abilities that can affect older drivers, participating in a driving refresher course can ensure that older drivers are more adequately prepared to operate their vehicles in the safest manner possible.

It is important to know that participation in the AARP Driver Safety Course does not require membership to AARP, however current members are eligible to receive a discount off the $20 non-member classroom course cost, and $21.95 online course. In addition, many insurance companies offer a discount on policy premiums to drivers who upon course completion. The course locater resource available on AARP’s website  offers classroom locations throughout Florida, including numerous in Alachua and Marion counties. For example, many community centers, senior recreation centers, and churches in Gainesville and Ocala have courses currently scheduled to begin as early as mid-January. AARP also offers a variety of additional online resources to drivers aimed at improving driver safety and awareness.

As accident and injury attorneys, the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. hopes that all drivers, both old and new, will take advantage of these valuable resources, which research shows, has greatly contributed to creating a safer environment for all motorists that occupy Florida’s busy roadways.

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