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Older Missourians Urged to Hone Defensive-Driving Skills: It's Free for Veterans

PHOTO: As millions of baby boomers turn 65, the NHTSA urges older drivers to update their driving skills. Courtesy of AARP.
PHOTO: As millions of baby boomers turn 65, the NHTSA urges older drivers to update their driving skills. Courtesy of AARP.
November 12, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration predicts that by 2020, more than 40 million drivers will be age 65 or older. That's why NHTSA and others are urging older drivers in Missouri and around the nation to update their defensive-driving skills.

Craig Eichelman, state director for AARP Missouri, recently required everyone in his office to take his organization's defensive-driving course. He says he learned about where to position the seat and headrest properly. And he's glad he did – because his vehicle was rear-ended the very next day.

"Finished at four o'clock that day with the course, went home; got in the car the next morning to go to work and just kind of played around and made some adjustments. And on the way to work, it totaled the car and I walked away from it."

Among other things, the course teaches drivers to leave 10 inches between their chests and the steering wheel to give the air bag adequate room to deploy. To prevent neck injury, headrests should be about three inches or less from the center of the back of a person's head, not against their neck. It also updates drivers on rules of the road and how to assess their driving skills.

Eichelman says his experience made him realize that people of all ages can benefit from a defensive-driving course. During November, the course is free to military veterans, online or in person.

"If you're a grandparent, take your grandkid with you, who might be in their twenties. You know, do it together."

An added bonus: sometimes, presenting a certificate of completion saves you money on your car insurance.

"I would ask your provider if they provide a discount, and if not, ask them, 'Why not?' And maybe you can shop around and get a better deal based on successful completion of the course."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 500 older Americans are injured in crashes every day. The NHTSA also has a website of information for older drivers, nhtsa.gov/Senior-Drivers.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO