Tag Archives: AARP

What I learned in the AARP driving course

The in basket: My wife, The Judybaker, and I took part in one of the many April senior driving safety classes sponsored by AARP and administered by Glen Adrig of Bremerton.

Glen extended a personal invitation because I write this column, and I figured that my wife and I, in our mid-60s, could benefit. It cost us $12 each, being AARP members. It’s $14 for a non-member.

The course is offered every month at eight or ninelocations between Bainbridge Island and Shelton. They are taught by a variety of local people and Glen oversees the entire district. Call Glen at 360-377-2448 to find one near you.

The out basket: Among the things I learned is that the instruction we all got as youngsters to hold the steering wheel at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions has been made obsolete by air bags.

If your hands are that high on the wheel when you are in a collision and your air bags deploy, they can smack you in the face, adding to your injuries. The 3 and 9 positions are safer, we were told.

I’ve since been noticing how I hold the wheel, and am alarmed at how often my right hand is at 12 o’clock, the top of the wheel. My nose would be a sitting duck for a self-inflicted punch if I’m ever in a bad crash.

I am constantly reminding myself to bring them down. I’m making progress but I have a ways to go.

Glen also instructed us in an alternative way to position our side mirrors to reduce their blind spots. I’ve heard of it for years, but never tried it. You tip the mirrors farther away from your car until you no longer can see see the side of it while sitting straight in the driver’s seat.

Glen modified the instruction in the AARP manual so that you can see the sides of your car by leaning a little one way or the other. The manual made the adjustment more extreme.

I’ve done it and am getting used to not being able to confirm what I see in my inside rearview mirror in the outside mirrors.

He also told us to try hitting our brakes hard at about 30 miles per hour in a deserted parking lot to acquaint ourselves with the unusual noises and pulsing of the brake pedal in a car with anti-lock brakes. I haven’t done that, as I often disregard the instruction not to pump anti-lock brakes.

Except in an emergency hard stop, in which case I doubt noises and pulsating would have any effect on how I press the brake pedal,  I regard flashing my brake lights when slowing to be a vital warning to the driver behind me that solid brake lights might not provide.

That’s just a taste of what the eilght-hour, two-day course covered and we got to take the 121-page course booklet home with us.

Is it a 2, 3 or 4-second rule for following on a highway?

The in basket: I was cleaning out old e-mails when I came across one from Donald Payne, sent in 2008, to which I’d never attended.

“Yesterday I was signing up a senior driver for an AARP Senior Driver Class,” Don said, “and she said she had seen a program on TV in which two

Washington State Patrolmen were discussing, explaining and advocating a two-second following distance.  I saw the program myself, earlier, and

that’s what they were dealing with — a two-second distance.  “The lady said she was confused.  She is aware that the

State Driver’s Guide says four seconds; and having taken our class previously, she is aware of the three-second recommendation.

“So, the lady’s question is:  Which one is right?  Is it two, three, or four?

“What’s your take on the situation?”

The out basket: One of the troopers in question, Johnny Alexander, said he and Monica Alexander “may have briefly mentioned following distance during the KOMO Traffic Reports more than three-years ago. (That would have been around 2005.)

“However, we never participated in a television program where following distance was the topic,” he said. “The Department of Licensing Drivers Guide, page 71 – “Space Ahead,” indicates if you are driving 30 mph or less, the two-  to three-second rule is recommended.  However, at speeds higher than 30 mph, the four-second rule is recommended.  The Washington State Drivers Guide can be accessed through www.dol.wa.gov.

“We encourage our troopers to use the four-second rule.  Most troopers add one-second to the count to further reduce the chance of being the causing driver of a rear-end collision,” he said.

Since Don asked, my take on the situation is you’ll be darn lucky to maintain the recommended distance from the car ahead on a multi-lane highway in heavy traffic as some other driver will probably slide into the space, but it’s worth a try. It should be easily observed on a two-lane highway.

And in case this whole idea is foreign to you, here is how the driver’s guide says it works:

• Watch when the rear of the vehicle ahead passes a sign, pole, or any other stationary point.

• Count the seconds it takes you to reach the same spot: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one- thousand, four-one-thousand. You are following too closely if you pass the mark before you finish counting.

• If so, drop back and then count again at another spot to check the new following distance. Repeat until you are following no closer than four seconds.