By SEAN ROWLEY
Motorists who want a defensive driving refresher or would like to reduce their auto insurance premiums are invited to enroll in the American Association of Retired Persons Driver Safety Program course.
The final course of 2013 is Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Tahlequah Senior Citizens Center, 230 E. First St. from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Fee is $12 for AARP members and $14 for non-members. Instructor is Virgil Johnson, a retired educator, administrator and U.S. Navy veteran. The AARP will offer a new course in 2014 and the respective fees will rise to $15 and $20.
“I took this course every three years for nearly 30 years, until it wasn’t offered here,” Johnson said. “The last few times I had to go to Tulsa or Broken Arrow. I decided I could volunteer as an instructor and bring the course back to Tahlequah. I think this helps some of the older drivers who don’t want to drive that distance.”
The AARP Driver Safety Program course includes explanations of rules of the road, defensive driving techniques and safe motor vehicle operation. Participants will also learn how to account for and compensate for common age-related changes in reaction time, vision and hearing.
Other skills taught include minimizing the danger of blind spots, proper following distance, turning and lane changing in heavy traffic, monitoring personal driving skills and those of others, and proper use of safety belts, anti-lock brakes, air bags and new technologies.
The course also includes information about eliminating distractions - cell phones, smoking, eating - and the effects of medication on driving abilities.
No tests are administered and participants need not bring anything. Though the course is intended for those 50 and older, the course is open to drivers of all ages.
“Only one unit is dedicated to senior drivers,” Johnson said. “All other units of instruction apply to anyone. I can teach this course to church groups or other gatherings. They need to supply a television with a DVD player, and I ask that the drivers be of roughly the same age so I can tailor instruction to them.”
Taking the course can reduce insurance premiums. Oklahoma statute requires insurance companies to offer “appropriate” reductions to those who complete driver safety courses, unless the course is court-mandated due to a motor vehicle violation, or alcohol or drug related offense.
Those completing the course receive a certificate which can be presented to an insurance agent.
Courses must be taken every three years to maintain the reduction in premiums. Those planning to take the course may wish to contact their agents to determine what reduction can be expected.
“The definition of ‘appropriate’ varies with each insurance company,” Johnson said. “But I’ve found that the average reduction is about five percent. That can add up to hundreds of dollars a year for an outlay of $12 or $14 to take the course.”
For information or to register for the course contact Johnson at (918) 457-5055.
Registration is also available at the Tahlequah Senior Citizens Center. Cash or check is accepted.