Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Little Old Lady Driver Class

My foot is still not quite up to Little Old Lady Exercise Class. My knees are getting stronger; I can actually pedal fast enough on the exercise bike to get my heart rate up. I even walked up the ramp to the P-MAC on two occasions to go to basketball games instead of taking the elevator. “Jumping around”, in Dr. S’s words, is still not advised.

My dear hubby found me a substitute, however - Little Old Lady Driving Class. It’s not just  for little old ladies (well, neither was the exercise class). It’s actually a class sponsored by AARP for drivers 50 years old and older. Hubby found out about it when he called our insurance company to find out of his rate would go down now that he is driving fewer miles a month. It turns out it does, a bit, but what really makes a difference is this driver safety class. It saves him $40 every six months. I’m not sure yet what it saves me, but it will be something. So he signed us up.

The class took four hours (almost to the minute), and consisted of videos, lecture discussion, and a pre- and post-test. The time went by relatively quickly. Subjects covered were how minds and bodies change as we get older and how it affects driving, eight safety strategies, other road users and how to respect their road usage, knowing our roads and highways, understanding our vehicles, and judging our driving fitness and knowing when to retire from driving. 

A sobering thought: death rates from motor vehicle accidents climb dramatically once you hit age 75. For women my age, there are just over 2 deaths per thousand crashes. For 75-79 year olds, that rate climbs to 4 deaths per thousand and for 80 years old and older, almost 7 deaths per thousand. For men, those rates are even higher and climb more steeply as they age.

As we went through the material covered, I realized I hadn’t taken a driver’s test of any kind since I moved to Louisiana in 1972. I’ve kept up on changes in the law (for instance, you now have to turn on your headlights as soon as it rains enough to turn on your windshield wipers; that didn’t used to be the law until some time in the late 80’s), but some things I really just did not know, like how far you have to stop behind a stopped school bus. Usually I just hit my brakes as soon as I see the driver activating the stop signs, but one time I came up a slight hill on a four lane highway behind a stopped bus and did not know how far behind I needed to be. (Thirty feet, in Louisiana.) I did not know who has the right of way when entering a roundabout (the drivers already in the roundabout), although I’m pretty sure I would have reacted correctly when faced with the situation. And it turns out I have been taking some risks in driving on the road with big trucks: cutting in too closely when passing them and then slowing down, and hanging out in their blind spots.

At least I behave safely around railroad crossings. If a gate is down and/or the bell is clanging, even if the train is not in sight, I won’t drive around it to get across the way I have seen some drivers do. I also do not walk on railroad tracks or stand too close to them.

So the class was worth the $14, even without the insurance rate reduction. (It’s $12 for AARP members.)

After class, hubby drove us to the insurance agent’s office with our class certificates in hand. As he chattered away (distracted driver), he was reminded of something he needed to convey with a gesture that took at least one hand off the wheel. “Sweetheart,” I pointed out mildly, “Didn’t we just finish taking a driver’s safety class?”

“Yeah, I know,” he said, then proceeded on with his anecdote. Fortunately we made it to the agent’s office without causing an accident.

Because I really, really would have hated to explain that one.

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