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California

Driver Class Can Cut Premiums; Volunteer Instructors Needed

The life you save may be your own

Doris Morse, seen in side view mirror, teachs in the AARP Driver Safety Program.

Doris Morse, of Millbrae, and other volunteers teach in the AARP Driver Safety Program. People who complete the class may be eligible for a car insurance discount. — Photo by Unnikrishnan Raveendranathan

En español | John M. Beringer Sr., of Long Beach, has received three traffic tickets in his life — all for maneuvers he didn't know were illegal.

Driver's education wasn't offered as a high school course to Beringer, 81, and many others of his generation. He learned to drive as a teenager from a family member and picked up some bad habits, such as turning left from the wrong lane.

See also: Why take a driver safety course?

The traffic tickets helped Beringer unlearn the illegal maneuvers. He collected other safety tips 20 years ago when he took AARP's Driver Safety Program class, which covered precautions such as the danger of tailgating.

Now he knows the three-second rule — one of the many safety tips stressed in the program — so well that he can recite it chapter and verse: Drive at least three seconds behind the vehicle ahead.

Beringer, a retired aeronautics engineer, liked the class so much that he became an instructor and eventually AARP California's volunteer coordinator. "I enjoy especially the fact that we help senior citizens remain more active in a safe manner."

Discount up to insurer

Californians 55 and older who take the eight-hour course may be eligible for a three-year car insurance discount. To retain the discount, drivers must take a four-hour refresher course every three years.

Insurance companies are not required to give the discount, and the amount varies depending on the insurance company and the driver's record. Customers should check with their insurance carriers for details.

The discount is what attracted Carol Deuel, 74, of Willits, when she first took the course in 1999.

"I went to the class to get my insurance discount and went prepared to be bored out of my mind," Deuel said. Almost immediately, she changed her mind.

At the end of the class, the instructor passed out applications to people who were interested in teaching the class. Deuel signed up and now serves as the state's chief trainer.

Next: 'I want the roads to be safer.' >>

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