More local senior citizens taking refresher courses on driving safety

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — More congestion on the streets and more distractions from electronic devices are making it harder to stay safe behind the wheel, particularly for seniors.

That’s why more older drivers are taking a refresher course on driving safety.

Driving has changed a lot in the last twenty plus years, with more cyclists, pedestrians and runners sharing the streets.

And roundabouts and other intersection changes can be confusing.

“I notice that the same thing I could do at 20, I can’t do at 65, or 68, which is what I am right now,” said Don White of Lenexa, Kan. “So yeah, (my reactions) slipped a little bit. I don’t know if slipped is the right word. They have changed.”

Unusual traffic crashes involving older drivers have become more common as our population ages.

Last year, police say an elderly woman mistakenly pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake and crashed her car into an apartment building in Grandview, Mo. She had a 5-year-old child with her.

Luckily, no one was seriously hurt.

“As you become a senior the testing increases for kind of trying to slow down people who should not be driving anymore,” said Stuart Brand, Johnson County’s 50 plus recreation coordinator. “But this gives them an opportunity to retrain their brain on some of the things that get lax, like make sure you put on your seatbelt in this way.”

The risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as we age, because of vulnerabilities like more fragile bones.

Seniors who complete the driver safety course offered by the American Association of Retired Persons at the Matt Ross Community Center get a 5 percent discount in Kansas on their auto insurance.

Those taking the class say it’s important for them to maintain their mobility. A driver’s license in Johnson County means freedom. Something that can’t be replaced by public transit or driverless cars that may not arrive in their lifetimes.