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Rules of the road

Refresher course at Cedar Crest keeps drivers safer longer

Created date

May 24th, 2011

Do you always use your blinker when changing lanes? Who goes first at a four-way stop? Which driver has the right-of-way in a traffic circle? These sometimes confusing rules and many more are reviewed for Cedar Crest residents who take the six-hour AARP Driver Safety Class taught at the Pompton Plains, N.J., community twice yearly. While similar driving courses offer certification for any age, the AARP course specifically targets older drivers, focusing on defensive driving and other helpful tips to keep them safe behind the wheel.

Defensive driving

It s a refresher course in defensive driving, says volunteer course instructor Leon Goldstein. Goldstein has taught the course at Cedar Crest for the past five years. My job is to keep it lively, funny, and involve the participants, he says. Despite his light-hearted nature, Goldstein takes his job seriously, teaching useful and lifesaving lessons. Just as car technology, roads, and rules have changed over the years, so have driving conditions. Cell phones, increased traffic, and aggressive driving have worsened driving conditions, making a refresher course essential for anyone, no matter what their age, says Ellie Katsch, who has taken the AARP course at Cedar Crest and highly recommends it. The course reminds you of so many things, says Wanda Hiestand, who went through the course three years ago and then again this April. I m always surprised at what I learn. For example, she says, I didn t realize you need to turn on the blinker every time you change lanes. I also learned the move over rule. You move over to the other lane when a police car is on the side of the road. Most importantly, Hiestand says, [The course] reinforces how serious an act driving a car really is. I don t need to drive nearly as much as I used to since I have everything I need here at Cedar Crest, but I like to be comfortable and confident when I do drive, she adds, referring to the community s amenity-rich campus which houses restaurants, a bank, medical center, fitness and aquatics center, and various types of classrooms and workshops.

Three-year certification

Completion of the driving course entitles one to a certification and, in the state of New Jersey, a 5% discount on car insurance for three years. The course costs $12 for AARP members and $14 for nonmembers. Goldstein says the Cedar Crest course is only open to people who live at the community; however, AARP offers the course at other locations and online. People take the course primarily for the insurance benefits, but it rejuvenates some of their driving skills too, he says. According to the AARP course description, participants learn adjustments to accommodate common age-related changes in vision, hearing, and reaction time. Some main points include the following:
  • How to minimize the effects of blind spots
  • How to judge and maintain appropriate following distance behind another car
  • The safest ways to change lanes and navigate busy intersections
  • Proper use of new technologies in cars
  • Defensive driving techniques
  • The effects of medications on driving
  • The importance of eliminating distractions such as eating and cell phone use
Hiestand recommends the course to anyone of any age and says she s always surprised at what she learns. I was driving the other day, and I didn t know what a sign meant, and I thought to myself, Thank goodness I m taking that course in a few weeks! The next AARP Driver Safety Class at Cedar Crest is slated for fall 2011. For more information, contact Amy Helmer at 973-831-3624. To locate a course off campus, visit call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669). To register for an online course,