AARP Eye Center
Even though Lottie Prushinksi had recovered from an illness and been cleared by her doctor to drive, she didn’t push back when her daughter asked to observe her driving.
As a longtime AARP Driver Safety instructor, Prushinksi knew she needed to practice what she preached.
So she let her daughter observe her in a parking lot and then on nearby roads before she headed out alone.
“I thought I didn’t need it,” said Prushinski, 73, of Southington. “But I’ve done enough of these classes to realize that I couldn’t put myself or anybody else in danger.”
AARP’s Smart Driver refresher course, which is offered online, covers the effects of aging on driving, traffic-law changes, accident prevention and new-car technologies.
One thing Prushinski tells people in her courses at the Southington Senior Center and other locations: Know your limitations. Changes in vision, hearing and flexibility can affect driving skills as people age.
A few other tips for older drivers: Understand the effects of new medications, avoid left turns when possible, keep a three-second distance and stay home in bad weather, Prushinski said.
Online or in person
The Smart Driver course lasts about four hours in the classroom but is also offered online, so students can work at their own pace, said Brent Leveille, 74, of Newington, coordinator of the Driver Safety program in Connecticut.
The Smart Driver classroom course costs $20 for AARP members and $25 for nonmembers. In-person classroom courses are closed until July 1, 2020. Check aarpdriversafety.org for COVID-19 scheduling updates.
Until Aug. 31, AARP is offering a 25 percent discount for the online course, with the promotion code DRIVINGSKILLS.
The class costs $19.95 for members and $24.95 for nonmembers. Sign up at aarpdriversafety.org. Participants have 30 days to complete the program.
State law requires at least a 5 percent insurance discount for two years for anyone 60 or older who takes the course. Drivers under 60 should check with their carrier about a discount.
AARP Connecticut is also promoting its Road to Livability presentations, which help families and caregivers evaluate what changes can be made to their homes, cars and neighborhoods to promote independent living.
“It gives people an opportunity to look at ways to keep their independence while focusing on function,” said Erica Michalowski, AARP Connecticut’s outreach director.
People are given condensed safe-driving tips during the presentations. Those who want more guidance can sign up for Smart Driver or three related AARP Driver Safety programs:
CarFit, developed by occupational therapists and available by appointment, shows drivers how to properly adjust their seats, mirrors and steering wheel.
We Need to Talk is an online seminar that helps caregivers and adult children assess if an older relative should give up their keys and offers advice for that difficult conversation.
Smart DriverTEK, also available online, focuses on new-car technology and outlines safety features such as lane-departure warnings, drowsy-driver alerts and blind spot warnings.
CarFit, We Need to Talk and Smart DriverTEK are free.
To learn more, go to aarp.org/drive or call 877-846-3299.
Natalie Missakian is a writer living in Cheshire.
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