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Maryland

Take a Refresher Course on Safe Driving Skills

State studying statistics, laws regarding older drivers

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Physical changes
Recognizing the physical changes that accompany aging is also important to help people drive safely. Watson tells participants to watch for changes in eyesight or hearing. She also tells them to be aware of any medication they are taking that might make driving unsafe.

Distracted driving is a big part of the class. "Everyone is a distracted driver now," Peterkin said. The obvious phone talkers and texters can be distracted behind the wheel, but Peterkin said the technology in cars — including new dashboard gadgets such as touch screens or GPS devices — can be distracting for some drivers.

"I make sure all of our seniors are aware of this," Peterkin said.

How to handle road rage is another popular topic.

"I teach them to be patient," said Peterkin. "Just let the person pass and don't make eye contact. You don't know what you are dealing with."

Refresher courses may help drivers' wallets, too. Some companies offer discounts on insurance premiums for drivers who complete a course such as AARP Driver Safety. Peterkin advised drivers to check with their insurance companies for specific details.

A related driver safety seminar addresses the question of when to give up the keys. The "We Need to Talk" online seminar gives guidance for boomers to talk about the issue with their parents, and allows older drivers to start to evaluate their own driving skills.

Another related program for older drivers is CarFit, which is designed to adjust vehicles to fit drivers' bodies and the physical limitations that often come with age. Participants drive their own automobiles to a CarFit session for a free, 20-minute one-on-one assessment.

Out of the 4.1 million licensed drivers in Maryland, more than 1.3 million are 55 and older.

Older drivers are an issue in Maryland after the death of a 20-year-old Johns Hopkins University student in 2011. An 83-year-old woman making a right turn into a driveway struck the student on his bike. As part of a lawsuit settlement with the student's family, the driver agreed to permanently give up her license. The student's family has also been fighting for stricter rules and more frequent testing for older drivers.

Next page: What study statistics reveal about older drivers. »

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Older drivers are more fragile than their younger counterparts and are generally less able to withstand the impact from accidents. Learn how properly fitting your car better ensures your safety and that of others on the road.

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This program is supported by a generous grant from Toyota to AARP Foundation.

*Upon completion, you may be eligible to receive an auto insurance discount. Other restrictions apply.

Consult your agent for details.