Positively 50+: Refreshing your driving skills, learning new ways to handle Utah’s often difficult traffic

May 27, 2022, 12:15 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:28 pm

MILLCREEK, Utah — The rules of the road change all the time, as does the technology automakers stuff in our cars. Even our senses and reflexes are not immune from change as we pass the half-century mark.

Driving for Diane Hinman has changed a lot since she first hit the road over six decades ago.

“There wasn’t as much traffic. The cars were much simpler,” she said.

Though Hinman has had a lifetime of driving experience, she has come to AARP’s Smart Driver Course to learn more. It is designed to refresh the skills of drivers aged 50 and older, and to bring them up to speed on the latest technologies and techniques.

“We don’t say take the course because you’re a bad driver,” said Eric Wollesen, AARP’s driver safety coordinator for Utah. “We say take the course because you can be a better driver.”

AARP State Driver Safety Coordinator Eric Wollesen explains some of the new safety technology used in modern cars.

Wollesen said while it is not easy for some drivers to hear, the fact is, our reflexes slow down as we age, and our eyes just do not work the same they did when we were relatively new drivers.

“When you go from 20 years old to 40, it takes 40 times more light to see like you did at 20,” he explained.

Offsetting those inescapable changes is just one of the course’s wide and varied topics. The list of others include bike lanes, cell phone rules, roundabouts, weather conditions, using the latest safety features, and how 10-and-2 has become obsolete. Hold the wheel at 9-and-3 instead.

“The newer cars have all power steering, and so you don’t need to be up at 10-and-2 use that leverage. You don’t need to turn the wheel as much,” Wollesen said. “Hands can be here (9-and-3) and hit all the buttons (on the steering wheel) and they can be out of the way if the airbag comes out.”

AARP Smart Driver instructor Richard Raddatz shows why it’s important for driver to grip the wheel at 9-and-3, as opposed to the old school 10-and-2 position.

But AARP’s Smart Driver course is not just about the technical aspects of driving. Drivers like Diane also pick up strategies on how to handle their medications, keeping physically active for flexibility and response, and how to handle those difficult traffic situations we see every day in Utah.

“It’s not a contest,” Wollesen said. “It’s good driving, safe driving, being aware, being able to process what’s happening.”

There is a financial incentive, too. Drivers who take the course and have a good driving record will see their insurance premiums drop. They are taught two or three times each week in Northern Utah, or you can take it online.

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Positively 50+: Refreshing your driving skills, learning new ways to handle Utah’s often difficult traffic