AARP class geared to refresh older drivers

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— Admitting that the senses and reflexes one relies on to drive an automobile have begun to erode is a difficult thing to do. But it's a lot easier when the admission is worth $150.

Jane and Bud Romberg will teach a driving refresher course designed specifically for the needs of people 55 and older April 24 and 25 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. The Rombergs won't be handing out cash, but people who complete the eight-hour course will be eligible for a discount in their insurance rates. Bud Romberg said the amount of the discount varies with insurance carriers, but he said he and his wife save $150 annually.

The discounts are mandated for a period of three years after people complete the course by Colorado law, Romberg said.

The course was created and is distributed nationally by the AARP. The Rombergs will be teaching the recently revised fifth edition of the course. Last year, AARP sponsored 30,000 classes and more than 586,000 attended. The Rombergs have volunteered to teach the course locally for the past 5 years and say they average between 20 and 25 students in each session.

"It's designed to alert older drivers to what happens when they (experience) a loss of reaction time, loss of hearing and loss of depth perception and peripheral vision," Romberg said. "The two biggest problems of drivers age 55 and older are improper left turns and failure to yield."

Sgt. Duane Bradley of the Colorado State Patrol in Steamboat Springs said he believes classes such as the one offered by the AARP can help all drivers remain safe behind the wheel of a car as they age.

"I know from watching my own parents, and seeing them age, they haven't changed as far as their driving habits and skills. But they haven't adjusted for the change in their reaction time and perception," Bradley said. "This class would help drivers understand that the changes happen gradually. We don't just get out of bed one day and our reaction time is slower. This is something we can learn, adjust to and continue driving safely."

Romberg said in addition to teaching participants how to compensate for some of the changes they experience as they age, the class will address rules of the road, local driving problems and safety tips.

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