Course re-energizes older drivers’ skills

REDWOOD CITY — Annabelle Emery may have put winding road trips along the California coast behind her, but even in her 80s, drives to doctors’ appointmentsand to pick up groceries are still necessities.

Her ability to fight traffic, however, isn’t all it used to be. That’s why she is thankful she and her husband are among 400 seniors to complete a free, refresher course for older drivers being offered in the county, Emery said. Completing the three-and-a-half hour course last week gave her a shot of confidence, Emery said.

“We found it to be a very interesting class because we’re getting older and we need to keep up with all the rules of driving,” said Emery, a San Mateo resident.

The program has proven so successful on the Peninsula, graduating 10 full classes of 40 to 50 seniors since the end of August, the Highway Patrol is considering expanding it to other parts of the state, Supervisor Adrienne Tissier said. “We’ve produced 400 older drivers who are at least more aware of certain age-related challenges when behind the wheel and know how to compensate,” Tissier said.

Richard Richardson, 83 of Redwood City, also praised the class, organized by Tissier to improve older driver safety and allow them to keep driving for longer periods of time. “I wanted to make sure I’m doing the right thing to continue driving,” Richardson said of his decision to sign up.

In addition to proper driving techniques, Highway Patrol volunteers delve into health issues that could help seniors stay alert and in good driving condition, as well as warn them against combining medication with driving.

“This class isn’t meant to discourage people from driving, but by taking the class they might be able to recognize their limitations and taken them into account,” Tissier said.

Tissier began promoting the classes after learning that seniors 60 and older will comprise 19 percent of the Peninsula population, according to state estimates. By 2030 that number is expected to grow to 29 percent. “Even if we helped just 10 percent of our attendees avoid accidents, that’s at least 40 collisions and 40 potential injuries prevented,” Tissier said.

Two more courses are scheduled in Burlingame and Pacifica prior to Christmas, with a third tentatively scheduled for Redwood City in January. For more information contact Bill Chiang (650) 363-4042.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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