Aileen Shmuger well remembers the day she took a St. Louis streetcar down Grand Avenue to get her first driver's license at age 16.
That was 60 years ago, and Shmuger still drives. Driving has changed greatly since she was a teenager, and so has Shmuger. That's why she recently spent an afternoon with more than a dozen other older people in an AARP Driver Safety Program class in St. Louis.
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"Everything that becomes a habit isn't always good," she said.
Shmuger is among the nearly 1,000 Missourians who have taken the four-hour class this year. They're among more than 355,000 people across the country who have participated in similar classes.
Many take the class to get a reduction in their car insurance premiums. Unlike some states, Missouri does not require insurance companies to give a discount for taking the class, but a few companies give a 5 to 10 percent discount.
"Everybody who takes the class comes away with at least one good thing," said Quentin Ruchte, 77, coordinator of the Missouri Driver Safety Program. "And it might save a life."
Ruchte noted that few older people took driving courses when they learned to drive.
"Continuing education is important because things change," he said. "The rules of the road change, and people change."
No test involved
The class has two main objectives: teaching participants defensive-driving techniques and adjusting to age-related changes. No driving is involved, and there's no test. The cost is $15 for AARP members and $20 for nonmembers. To register for the class, visit the Driver Safety Program website or call 1-888-227-7669 toll-free.
The online course costs $19.95 for members and $24.95 for nonmembers.