Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

August 10, 2013

Driver safety class for over-50 crowd offered

TRAVERSE CITY — Michelle Mercer follows the 3-second rule when driving to avoid getting too close to the vehicle in front of her.

She knows that keeping her hands at the 8 and 4 o’clock positions on the steering wheel can prevent injury to her hands, arms and face if an accident triggers her airbag to inflate.

And she keeps her front wheels pointed straight ahead when waiting to turn left so that her car won’t move into oncoming traffic if her foot slips off the brake or someone hits her from behind.

She is careful.

Mercer, 70, a retired home health care nurse, is a two-time graduate of the an AARP Drivers Safety class offered periodically by the Grand Traverse Commission on Aging.

She took the class for the first time three years ago when she was 67 and again in June. She plans to sign up for a third rendition when she’s 73 because cars change as do traffic rules, driving conditions and roads.

“You’re never too old to learn and I’ve learned something new both times I’ve taken it,” she said. “It’s a must-do for anyone who cares about driving safely.”

The course is geared to drivers 50 and older, but is open to people of all ages, said Bill Young, one of the instructors.

Discussion is encouraged during the classes because it aids learning.

Mercer said about 15 people were in the classes she took, all probably older than 50 and one woman possibly in her early 80s. Typically, class sizes range from five to 15 people. And Young uses the AARP safety manual and also the Michigan Driving Manual as class supplements.

AARP has offered driving safety courses since 1979.

Older drivers are the demographic group with the highest rate of seat belt use and lowest percentage of alcohol-related accidents. But they are more likely to be killed or seriously injured when a crash occurs because they are more physically fragile than other drivers and generally less able to withstand the impact of a wreck, said the AARP.

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