AARP AARP States Colorado Driver Safety

Smart Driver Course: Boost Safety, Get Discount

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Joe Lanotte took an AARP Driver Safety class 10 years ago to get an insurance discount, inspiring him to become a volunteer instructor and trainer for the course, now called Smart Driver.

Since then, he has been telling students in the class about those potential discounts as well as the importance of refreshing driving skills.

Under Colorado law, residents 55 and older who complete the Smart Driver course qualify for a three-year discount on their auto policy premiums, depending on their insurance carrier.

The four-hour self-paced course is being conducted exclusively online during the coronavirus pandemic.

Geared to older motorists but open to anyone, Smart Driver focuses on techniques to boost confidence, minimize crash risks and improve awareness on the road.

“After every class I teach, a quarter of the students thank me and say, ‘You taught me stuff I didn’t know or stuff I forgot,’ ” said Lanotte, 76, who is also a data manager and tech adviser for the program.

The online course costs $21.95 for AARP members and $27.95 for nonmembers. Participants have 60 days to finish it.

While most students look forward to reduced premiums, many also are concerned about keeping up with state laws and ensuring they don’t cause injury to themselves or anyone else, said Lanotte, of Aurora.

New tech, old issues

Participants learn about new car technology, avoiding distractions and how aging, medications and alcohol affect reaction times.

“Distracted drivers are the leading cause of road deaths” in Colorado, said Phil Nuffer, volunteer state coordinator for AARP’s Driver Safety program. “People are looking at their cellphones or their GPS.”

Motorists also learn other helpful tips, said Nuffer, 80, of Elbert, who has taught approximately 90 classes.

For instance, the safe driving distance used to be calculated by car length and speed, he said, but the current recommendation is to maintain at least a three-second distance behind the car ahead.

Lanotte reminds students that from Sept. 1 to May 31, Colorado’s traction law requires that during adverse weather on mountainous sections of I-70, drivers must have either a four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle; snow, winter or all-weather tires with adequate tread depth; or chains.

An AARP evaluation found that 97 percent of those who took the course changed at least one driving behavior because of what they learned.

Additional guidance is available through three related Driver Safety virtual workshops, which are free of charge:

CarFit, developed by occupational therapists, shows drivers how to properly adjust car seats, mirrors and steering wheels.

We Need to Talk is a seminar that helps caregivers and adult children determine if an older relative should no longer be behind the wheel and offers advice for a difficult conversation about when it’s time to stop driving.

Smart DriverTEK focuses on technology in new vehicles and how you can stay safer while driving with features such as lane-departure warnings, blind-spot and drowsy-driver alerts, and smart headlights.

To learn more about the AARP Smart Driver course or to register for it, visit aarpdriversafety.org.

Cynthia Pasquale is a writer living in Denver.

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