AARP debuted its new smart driver course on January 1, 2014. The new course is available in a classroom setting, led by certified volunteer instructors, in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and in U.S. territories. The new version of the course will soon be available online.
The new curriculum was developed to help drivers 50 and older stay current with driving laws and new technologies inside and outside of vehicles.
“The driving experience today is significantly different from even a decade ago—changing vehicles, changing technology, changing road rules, and even changing roadways,” said Julie E. Lee, vice president and national director of AARP Driver Safety. “That change is often hardest on those who are farthest removed from a driving course.”
The New and Improved Curriculum
In an effort to measure the impact of its driver safety course, AARP Driver Safety partnered with the Eastern Virginia Medical School to conduct a research study.
The results demonstrated the effectiveness of AARP Driver Safety’s driving refresher course. It also highlighted areas of opportunity in which evidence-based findings could be incorporated into the course. The course has been adjusted to include a focus on areas where older drivers could benefit from additional training, including: roundabouts, pavement markings, stop-sign compliance, and safety issues such as speeding, seatbelt and turn signal use.
In addition to learning safety strategies that can reduce the likelihood of a crash, participants of the new course will also learn how aging, medications, alcohol, and other health-related issues affect driving ability, and how to adjust their driving accordingly to allow for these changes. The course also helps participants determine when it may not be best to drive (e.g., late at night, inclement weather, etc.) and how to plan for a time when driving is no longer an option.
In addition to incorporating evidence-based research, the AARP Smart Driver Course was developed with input from a National Older Driver Safety Expert Panel, chaired by Dr. Joseph Coughlin of MIT AgeLab. Designed with the participant in mind, the AARP Smart Driver Course also incorporates adult learning principles, and the classroom course guidebook features reader-friendly print types, full-color pages, an easy-to-follow format and supplemental course videos.
Instructors can also customize 19 areas of the new course, which is available in English and Spanish, to provide information that is specific to their state to better meet participant needs.
The new AARP Smart Driver Course is one of four easily accessible resources provided by AARP Driver Safety for adults who want to brush up on driving best practices. Additional resources include We Need to Talk, CarFit and the AARP Driving Resource Center, an interactive online resource that features tools and activities to further improve upon driving best practices.