Your AARP ; Missouri News
Some companies offer discounts
Brush Up on Safe Driving
Aileen Shmuger well remembers the day she took a St. Louis streetcar down Grand Avenue to get her first
driver’s license at age 16.
That was 60 years ago, and Shmuger still
drives. Driving has changed greatly since
she was a teenager, and so has Shmuger.
That’s why she recently spent an afternoon
with more than a dozen other older people
in an AARP Driver Safety Program class in
“Everything that becomes a habit isn’t
always good,” she said.
Shmuger is among the nearly 1,000 Mis-sourians who have taken the four-hour
class this year. They’re among more than
355,000 people across the country who
have participated in similar classes.
Many take the class to get a reduction in
their car insurance premiums. Unlike some
states, Missouri does not require insurance
companies to give a discount for taking the
class, but a few companies give a 5 to 10
“Everybody who takes the class comes
away with at least one good thing,” said
Quentin Ruchte, 77, coordinator of the Mis-
souri Driver Safety Program. “And it might
save a life.”
Ruchte noted that few older people took
driving courses when they learned to drive.
“Continuing education is important because things change,” he said.
No test involved
The class has two main objectives: teaching
participants defensive-driving techniques
and adjusting to age-related changes. No
driving is involved, and there’s no test. The
cost is $12 for AARP members and $14 for
nonmembers. To register for the class, go to
aarp.org/drive or call 1-888-227-7669 toll-free.
An online course is also available at
aarpdriversafety.org. The cost is $15.95 for
members and $19.95 for nonmembers.
Jim Clemmons, 72, is the volunteer director for AARP’s south central region. He’s
been a safe-driving instructor for 10 years,
first in Washington state and now in Battlefield, near Springfield.
Left turns present one of the biggest challenges for older drivers, he said. Pulling out
in front of someone coming the other way or
turning into the wrong lane are two of the
most common—and dangerous—mistakes.
“Anytime you’re in a right-of-way situation, potentially, as you age, you’ve got a
problem,” he said. Instead of dangerous
left turns, class participants are advised to
make three right turns when possible.
As people age, their reaction time is slow-
Giving up the keys
er. “So if you go to hit the brakes, you’ve
traveled another 20 to 30 feet compared to
a younger person,” Clemmons said. “You
need to learn how to compensate for that by
better spacing between you and the car in
front of you.”
Older drivers also need to remember to
look over their shoulders when changing
lanes to compensate for the blind spot on all
vehicles. “Seniors forget, or their neck may
be sore, so they don’t turn their head,” Clem-
mons said. “They rely on mirrors too much.”
Knowing when it’s time to stop driving is
another topic addressed in the class.
“It is a very touchy subject,” said Denny
Staub, 72, who teaches a driver safety class
in St. Louis. Unexplained scratches or
dents in the car, multiple traffic tickets, or
frequent horn blowing by other drivers are
among the signs it might be time to hang up
the car keys for good.
AARP is always looking for potential
teachers, who are trained and certified before they can teach; and for groups willing to
host classes at their facilities. If you are interested in teaching, or your facility is interested
in hosting the course, call 636-677-0801.
Staub, a former high school driving
instructor and football coach, is in his 11th
year as a teacher. He finds it very satisfying.
“You always walk away thinking, ‘I helped
somebody,’ ” he said.
—By Tim Poor
For other state news, go to
The estimated dollar value of a volunteer hour for
each state, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
Islands for 2009.
Value of Volunteers
* VALUE IS BASED
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WAGE OF NON-MANAGEMEN T,
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