Senior man driving a car

By Andy Gore

I wasn’t sure whether it made sense to attend the AARP Smart Driving course, but in my capacity as a volunteer driver and ICP board member, I thought that it made sense at least to satisfy my curiosity. I also enrolled my wife, Ann, so I would have someone to share what I expected to be a burden of four hours a day for two days listening to stuff I already knew. She graciously agreed. Surprisingly, the course greatly exceeded our expectations, and we can recommend it enthusiastically and without reservation. Here’s why.

It became clear early on the first day that I didn’t know quite as much about safe and smart driving as I originally thought. Some of the things we learned included:

  • which questions to ask yourself to fully assess your own ability to drive safely and how to compile the answers to those questions into a safe driving assessment score;
  • how to start a discussion with a family member or friend who, in your assessment, has driving problems;
  • the kinds of stretches to perform to ensure maximum driving comfort and flexibility;
  • how to position oneself in relation to the steering wheel to ensure safest airbag deployment;
  • the number to call to determine whether your car has an airbag recall in place (37 million vehicles);
  • how to avoid buying tires that have reached their shelf expiration date;
  • how to adjust side mirrors to minimize blind spots (this one was actually tricky, and it really surprised me as I had no idea how badly mine were placed and how much of a difference it made when I adjusted them properly);
  • how to properly brake in an emergency to ensure the ABS system is working properly;
  • how to use the three-second distance following rule;
  • the kinds of accidents older drivers most often cause and which driving situations call for extra caution; and
  • whether roundabouts or four-way stops are safer.

The course also provided useful links to websites dealing with safety, public transportation options in the Chicago area and online workshops on understanding and using the latest driver-assist technologies.

The course contained a variety of live instruction and short films on various driving topics. Our instructor was excellent, and the film shorts were enjoyable and informative. The time went much more quickly than I had anticipated. Hearing other attendees’ comments and driving experiences was also helpful.

Janet G. kindly provided coffee, fruit and donuts before the sessions started.

My original skepticism was unwarranted. The course was not burdensome but beneficial. Both Ann and I can attest that this course will make anyone who takes it a better and safer driver.