EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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October 8, 2013

Older N.H. drivers refresh their skills

AARP helps keep older drivers up to speed

SALEM — Frances Avella, 79, of Atkinson has been driving for more than 60 years. But she had only taken a driver’s education course once — until yesterday

Avella was one of a dozen seniors brushing up on their driving skills at the Ingram Senior Center in Salem. The seniors were attending driver safety courses hosted by the AARP. The courses, geared toward drivers 50 and older, are on the list of “603 Reasons” people love New Hampshire.

“There are so many new rules now,” Avella said. “I feel like I need a refresher.”

Richard Cote of Londonderry has taught driving courses to seniors for 12 years. He said there are several possible hazards which drivers have to be aware of as they get older.

“They don’t react as well as they used to,” Cote said. “Most of the accidents of people ages 50 and over occur at intersections and left turns. That’s because as we age we lose our depth perception and our vision isn’t quite as good.”

Dan Andrews, AARP’s New Hampshire driver safety coordinator, said AARP will teach 80 classes to 700 people in New Hampshire this year.

“We want our drivers to be safe,” Andrews said. “Ninety-seven percent of all drivers have changed at least one aspect of their driving after taking the class.”

Forty-six percent of drivers in New Hampshire are over 50, according to the New Hampshire Department of Safety. More than 6 percent of New Hampshire drivers are over 75. There are even 24 drivers who are still driving at over 100.

Improving their driving is one benefit, but there is another allure for seniors taking the course.

“It’s going to help make my insurance a lot cheaper,” said Freda Smith, 85, of Salem.

Andrews said several insurance agencies in New Hampshire offer drivers a discount on their car insurance if they complete the course.

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