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Safe-Driving Tips for 50-Plus

Insurance firms may offer discounts

Attendance does not erase traffic tickets or points on your license. The purpose of the class is to keep drivers safe by updating them on traffic rules and helping them compensate for the physical and mental aspects of aging.

As people age, they may lose some hearing or peripheral vision and have slower reaction times. Night driving can be especially perilous, Cardenas said.

Some rules of the road have changed since older drivers got their first driver's licenses, and today's cars have new features they may be unfamiliar with.

"We make them feel like they can still be on the road, but you have to be extremely careful," said Cardenas, 79, a past president of AARP Texas.

Roy Ball, 69, an instructor and coordinator in the San Antonio-Austin area, emphasizes strategies such as keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front, scanning the road and walkways and staying alert to the most likely places for a crash in an intersection.

Wilma Oliver, 79, of Universal City, attends the course every three years to keep her insurance premium discount.

Oliver had always thought she should place her hands in the 10 and 2 o'clock positions on her steering wheel. But in one of Ball's classes in late May, Oliver learned to position her hands slightly lower, more to the sides of the wheel at 9 and 3 o'clock. That way, if an airbag deploys, her arms will be less likely to hit her in the face and cause an injury.

The classroom course costs $12 for AARP members and $14 for nonmembers. Classes are taught in activity centers, churches and businesses. An eight-hour online course costs $15.95 for AARP members and $19.95 for nonmembers and may also result in an insurance discount.

To find a class near you, enter your ZIP code on the Locate a Course page on the AARP Driver Safety Program website.

To volunteer to become an instructor, call 1-888-227-7669 toll-free. Instructors receive a $30 reimbursement to cover their course-related costs.

Also of interest: Why your car should fit you. >>

Kelley Shannon, a freelance writer based in Austin, has covered the Texas state government for the past decade.

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