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Maryland

Take a Refresher Course on Safe Driving Skills

State studying statistics, laws regarding older drivers

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AARP Driver Safety coordinator Ted Peterkin poses for a portrait at Council House on November 15, 2012, in Suitland, Md.

Ted Peterkin, AARP Driver Safety coordinator, estimates that Maryland's volunteer instructors taught 4,500 drivers last year. The class is geared to older drivers, but drivers of all ages are welcome. — Patrick Smith

In a state taking a close look at older drivers and safety issues, Ted Peterkin and nearly 100 volunteer instructors are providing the tools to help those over 50 stay safely on the road and recognize when it might be time to give up the keys.

Peterkin, 58, of Brandywine, is the AARP Driver Safety state coordinator for Maryland. About 4,500 drivers participate in roughly 300 driver safety classes a year.

The four-hour course is open to any licensed driver but focuses on those 50-plus. The refresher course covers information on laws that may be new or have changed since many participants got their licenses.

"The class is a real benefit for our seniors," said Peterkin, a retired Army staff sergeant. Keeping up with changes to the motor vehicle laws is important.

For example, volunteer instructor Scarlett Watson, 71, of Baltimore, noted that Maryland law requires a car's headlights to be on if the windshield wipers are on. In 2010, a law went into effect that if a police officer or emergency vehicle is stopped on the side of the road, drivers must move away from the vehicle, or slow down if that is not possible.

"A lot of people didn't know about that," Watson said. "You would be surprised how the laws change."

Instructors go over everything from how highway signs look different now than just a few years ago, to how to make left turns properly and how to avoid an accident.

Next page: How physical changes that accompany aging can effect your driving. »

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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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