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AARP AARP States Michigan Driver Safety

Smart Driver Course: Safety Plus a Discount

Five Habits of Smart Drivers

Carol Krosovic had her car totaled years ago, when the motorist behind her slammed into it, so she was well aware of the perils of tailgating. But at an AARP Smart Driver course, she was reminded of a tip about keeping a safe distance.

“You need to allow enough space, even while not moving, so it’s best to see the back tires of the car in front of you when waiting to make a turn,” Krosovic, 68, of Midland, said. “After driving for about 50 years, it’s easy to get too comfortable. We all can use the reminders.”

That’s the idea behind AARP’s online curriculum. It’s a self-paced, eight-hour course that updates the skills of nearly half a million drivers each year.

Many insurance companies reduce premiums as much as 10 percent for customers 55 and older who provide proof they completed a driving course. Drivers generally must repeat the program every three years to continue receiving the discount.

More than 4,000 Michigan motorists earn or renew their AARP Smart Driver certificate each year. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the course has moved fully online via an easy-to-navigate program that works on computers, tablets and smartphones.

It’s regularly priced at $21.95 for members and $27.95 for nonmembers. According to the comparison-shopping site, the average annual savings on a premium for a vehicle policy with a defensive driving certificate is $61.

“But I’d take it without the discount,” Krosovic said. “You wouldn’t think it would be an interesting topic, but it really was.”

Need for self-assessment

In 2019, Michigan drivers 65-plus were behind the wheel in nearly 23 percent of fatal crashes, accounting for 227 of the state’s 985 traffic deaths that year. Rear-end collisions are the most common type of accident for older drivers.

“Younger drivers do exhibit riskier behavior,” said Lt. Michelle Robinson of the Michigan State Police. “Older drivers may be cautious, but as we age, our eyesight and other abilities diminish. Doing a periodic self-assessment is important.”

Smart Driver courses provide participants with strategies to deal with the effects of aging, said Cindy LaBelle, volunteer AARP Driver Safety state coordinator, who has expanded the course to more than 50 counties. Avoiding expressways, giving up driving after dark and sitting out rush hours are a few of the tactics discussed in class.

“We know that this course makes a difference,” LaBelle, 74, of Newaygo, said. “Our goal is to impact at least one or two participants’ habits. Statistics show that we do.”

Subjects range from drug and alcohol use to traffic laws. Navigating roundabouts, a relatively new phenomenon in Michigan, is a hot topic, instructors said.

In addition to Smart Driver, AARP offers several free 90-
minute workshops for motorists, currently held on Zoom:

Smart DriverTEK: optimizing newer technology like assisted parking, smart headlights and rearview cameras.

CarFit: making adjustments to seating and mirrors, and other ways to enhance safe driving.

We Need to Talk: tips for addressing driving-related safety concerns with aging relatives.

Using App-Based Ridesharing Services: the basics of hailing Uber and Lyft for transportation.

To find the Smart Driver course and learn more, visit

Melissa Preddy is a writer living in Plymouth, Mich.

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