May 19, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Most drivers have been witness to fellow road warriors behaving badly. Whether they cut you off, didn’t use a blinker, sped around you, or some other dangerous offense—chances are you thought, “learn how to drive!”

While some drivers neglect the rules of the road, help is available to keep safe on the streets. AARP Driver Safety was first launched in 1979. It is designed to meet the needs of older drivers through the use of four educational programs. In fact, the flagship AARP Smart Driver course is the nation’s largest classroom and online driver safety course. It was designed for people age 50 and older. Courses are available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

Lana Fitzgerald is an instructor of AARP Smart Driver courses. She says the driving landscape has changed dramatically in the past 30 to 60 years, and it will continue to change.

“Keeping pace with the changes is helpful to all drivers,” Fitzgerald says.

Lana Fitzgerald

Lana Fitzgerald

The AARP Smart Driver Course is optional. It boasts an award-winning, research-based curriculum. In Nebraska, the entire course takes only four hours if taken in-person. Some participants choose to learn the information at their own pace via the online course. Either way, many participants find themselves eligible for insurance discounts upon completion of the class. Best of all, there are no tests to pass in order to qualify for these discounts.

Mary F. Allen, 83, is a course participant who came to Nebraska from Arkansas to spend the winter months with her family.

“It’s imperative that drivers avail themselves of state-by-state rules and regulations and traffic law changes,” she says.

While Allen originally intended to take an online version of the course, she instead signed up for an in-person class with her daughter,  Kim Moss-Allen, 53.

“The program online would not have been as beneficial as the personal atmosphere of the classroom,” Allen says.

Not a member of AARP? Not a problem. An AARP membership is not required to enjoy all of the benefits this refresher course has to offer. While designed for drivers who are over 50, the course has seen participants as young as 14 benefit from the information.

Participants engage in a variety of lessons, such as learning research-based safety strategies that can reduce the likelihood of a crash. They also learn how aging, alcohol, and health-related issues affect driving ability. Additionally, it focuses on areas that can use more training, such as roundabouts, pavement markings, stop-sign compliance, and much more.

“Over 16,000,000 participants have gone through AARP Driver Safety classroom and online courses, which have been taught by more than 4,000 AARP Driver Safety volunteers,” Fitzgerald says.

Fitzgerald herself is a second generation AARP Driver Safety Instructor, and has been teaching the course for more than four years. Her dad taught classes in North Dakota. Fitzgerald teaches in Nebraska at several locations, including CHI Health Midlands and Sunridge Village Retirement Community.

The course is available throughout the year, and is taught by volunteer instructors nationwide.

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