HOWLAND - They not only receive discounts on their car insurance, but area senior citizens who complete local driving programs are improving their skills so they can drive safer, better and longer, organizers said.
As people age, their vision, reflexes, flexibility, ease and range of motions and height change.
Two driving programs are being offered through AAA and Trumbull County Senior Court / AARP to help seniors who face these changes continue to drive as long as possible.
Lori Cook, safety adviser for AAA East Central, assists Bill Scragg of Liberty in the proper way to hold and use the steering wheel of a car during the eight-hour program ‘‘Safe Driving for Mature Operators,’’ held this week at Shepherd of the Valley in Howland.
One eight-hour program, ''Safe Driving for Mature Operators,'' has been offered at Shepherd of the Valley locations in Howland and Poland.
Lori Cook, safety adviser for AAA East Central who instructs the class, said it is designed for senior citizens ages 60 and older and is split into four hours each day, with interactive learning in the classroom and in a car.
''The books we use in the class are interactive, with the participants filling in answers to questions as they watch a DVD,'' Cook said.
A free 20-minute program, ''Do You and Your Car Fit?,'' aimed at helping mature drivers find their perfect fit in a car, is being offered in September. As people age, their vision, reflexes, flexibility, ease and range of motions and height change. CarFit helps the driver adjust a car so it ''fits,'' making the driver more comfortable and confident.
The 12-point check is being offered:
9 a.m. to noon Sept. 7, Shepherd of the Valley-Poland, 301 W. Western Reserve Road, Poland;
9 a.m. to noon Sept. 14, Shepherd of the Valley Home Health, 5525 Silica Road, Austintown; and
9 a.m. to noon Sept. 21, Shepherd of the Valley-Howland, 4100 N. River Road N.E.
This series is sponsored by Shepherd of the Valley, the Chevy All Stars and the Senior News.
To schedule an appointment call 330-530-4038, Ext. 2057.
Driver's Safety program
Trumbull County Senior Court / AARP Driver's Safety program offers a certified instructor to provide a review of driving skills and techniques as well; as strategies to help seniors adjust to physical changes that may affect their driving ability. Cost is $12 for AARP members and $14 for nonmembers. Classes will be held:
1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 22, Newton Falls Community Center, Quarry Street, at city park, and
10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 10, with break for lunch, Lordstown SCOPE Center, behind Lordstown Elementary School, Salt Springs Road.
The program is co-sponsored by the Trumbull County Probate Court and the Area Agency on Aging 11.
For information, call 330-675-2616 or 330-469-4850.
She said many seniors want to use the class to make an informed decision on whether they should continue driving.
''Our goal is to help keep seniors driving better, longer and safer,'' Cook said.
Often, modifications are all that is needed to continue driving, Cook said, such as not driving in bad weather or not driving when it is dark.
''I think anyone has to be aware that as they age, some day, some modifications will be needed,'' Cook said.
She said one benefit seniors may have is their schedule. If they are retired, they have more choices about where to drive and when and can make changes for situations such as hazardous weather conditions.
Cook said people need to understand that as they get older, there are risks with driving because of changes in vision, including peripheral vision and depth perception.
''Some senior citizens may see a car further away than it really may be and pull out in front of someone due to changes with their depth perception,'' Cook said.
Topics covered in the class include communicating with other drivers, adjusting speed in order to have more time to react and having a margin of safety, which is the space between vehicles. Also covered are awareness and checking of the vehicle and dealing with emergency situations, such as lost brakes or flat tires.
Cook said seniors often need more time to react to a situation because of slowed reaction time and processing of information, both due to an aging brain.
She said she tells seniors about having emergency driving kits that include items such as light sticks to make others aware of a problem.
Cook said seniors also have to deal with medication issues, which may make them groggy or fatigued.
She said seniors and other drivers are recommended to drive with hands on the steering wheel as if they were at the eight and four numbers on a clock.
Cook said many seniors decrease in height as they get older and have to make adjustments to fit in their cars better.
Lynn Miller, corporate marketing director at Shepherd of the Valley, said many seniors don't think about the change in height.
Miller said the classes offered at Shepherd of the Valley have had people ages 60 to 94 attend.
''We had so many people signed up we had to schedule seven classes, and we still don't have everyone that is on the waiting list. There has been such a demand for the classes,'' she said.
Miller said the seniors have said there are challenges they face when driving and expressed interest in a driving program.
Cook said preview programs ''Tips for Senior Drivers,'' geared to senior citizens, and ''Steering Your Senior Driver,'' geared to the children of senior drivers, have also been held.
Cook said the classes have another benefit in that they are recognized for insurance discounts in Ohio based on state standards for drivers. ''The discounts are good for three years,'' she said.
Diane Jones of Howland said she took the class because she wanted to review driving laws and learn about any changes. She said she especially learned about ways to adjust the car mirrors to better see traffic coming from behind the vehicle.
''The most challenging is going into a big city where there is a lot of cars on the road at one time. This is the most difficult time for me,'' Jones said.
She said she hopes to gain a better understanding of safety on the road and acknowledges as people get older their reflexes are changing, and they're not as quick as they used to be.
Jean Bolinger of Cortland said she took the class to become a safer and more confident driver in different situations on the road, and William Scragg of Liberty said he is learning ways to enhance driving for his own safety and that of other drivers on the roads.
''It has been very educational. I hope this will help me to keep my driver's license longer,'' he said.
Nancy Morris of Liberty said she wanted to be a better driver and continue to drive as long as she could.
Flo Soletro of Niles said she signed up to make sure she still knew about being a safe driver and the different laws relating to driving.
''I feel this will make me more competent when driving,'' she said.
'''There is a real need for the program. So many seniors have expressed interest that more classes have been offered in Mahoning and Trumbull counties,'' Miller said.
Another program for senior drivers is offered by the Trumbull County Senior Court / AARP Driver's Safety Program. A certified instructor provides a review of driving skills and techniques, as well as strategies to help seniors adjust to physical changes that may affect their driving ability.
The senior driving program is co-sponsored by the Trumbull County Probate Court and the Area Agency on Aging 11.
Mary Warren, Senior Court coordinator, said the class has had seniors of all ages, including a 94-year-old participant at the Cortland SCOPE Center. The class is offered for ages 50 and older and is certified by AARP.
Warren said Debbie Samms of Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital comes to speak to the classes as part of the evaluation.
''The seniors feel comfortable in the atmosphere the class is held in. Many of their family members come along with their parents to the class,'' Warren said.
She said many seniors take the class as a way to help them keep driving. Other benefits include learning about the adaptive features in cars and about driving laws and sign identification.
"It is tough for someone who is told they are no longer able to drive,'' she said.
Warren said seniors who complete the program are eligible for a 5- to 15-percent reduction in their car insurance for up to three years.
Warren, who instructs the class, said the four-hour program has been held at Cortland SCOPE with 25 participants and Girard Multigenerational Center with 15 participants.
Also, Shepherd of the Valley is hosting three CarFit screenings for mature drivers in September. CarFit is an educational program providing older adults the opportunity to check how well their cars "fit" them.
Miller said statistics indicate older drivers are often the safest drivers, but they are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a crash because their aging bodies are more fragile. She said the upcoming CarFit check can improve their safety by making sure everything is properly adjusted.