Safety class helps refresh drivers' skills

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When it comes to safety, experience sometimes can work against older drivers.

They may overlook warnings or meanings of common signs, or they may not be aware of physical changes that put them at risk for accidents.

Those are just a few reasons why local members of the American Association of Retired Persons regularly host a Driver Safety Program for drivers age 50 and older. The next class will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

"It deals with age-related changes and how drivers can compensate for that," said Bud Romberg, who leads the class with his wife, Jane.

The class, which consists of two four-hour sessions with breaks, includes a series of discussions about physical changes that can affect driving skills and ways drivers can avoid stressful and potentially dangerous traffic situations.

"It's just really a matter of refreshing what people already know ... It's a common sense approach," Bud Romberg said.

Loss of hearing and depth perception and increased reaction time are among the most common changes affecting older drivers. However, because drivers don't see drastic changes on a day-to-day basis, they tend to be less conscious of those losses, Bud Romberg said.

When aware of those issues, drivers can take special precautions, such as leaving space between their cars and the cars in front of them to allow for more reaction time. Drivers also can cut back on distractions, such as loud radios or cell phones and take side roads to avoid traffic and high-speed areas.

In that respect, the class also can help elderly drivers determine whether they or someone they know still should be behind the wheel. In addition to difficulty with hearing, sight, depth perception and concentration, signs to give up driving include nervousness while driving, sleepiness and cues from other drivers, such as honking, Bud Romberg said.

"I think primarily, the people we've talked to that are giving up driving get really nervous about the way traffic around them is operating," he said.

For people who are getting to the point at which they shouldn't be driving, the Rombergs will suggest alternate ways to get around town.

In addition to brushing up on their driving skills, state law mandates drivers who participate in the course will receive a discount on their vehicle insurance for three years.

The cost of the driver's safety class is $10. To sign up, call the Rombergs at 879-0064.

The classes generally are held several times a year based on demand. To add your name to a list for upcoming classes, call the Routt County Council on Aging at 879-0633.

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