Teaching Old People How to Drive Better

Posted on March 11, 2016




A close friend of Life in the Boomer Lane is now teaching an AARP refresher course for senior drivers. The class is being held in Florida, in an area known for chiropractors, podiatrists, and over-55 mobile home communities.

LBL’s friend, whom we shall call Bernice (and Bernie for short, in honor of her favorite presidential candidate) introduced herself and then said, “Now, I undestand that all of you have probably been driving for at least 50 years…” All heads nodded (especially the students who were nodding off).  Later, a woman approached Bernie and said, “I thought about your remark and I realized I have been driving for 80 years.” The woman was 93-years-old and started driving when there were no minimum age requirements to get behind the wheel.

The first order of business was for students to create name signs for their desks, so Bernie could then call people by name. She instructed everyone to tear a sheet of paper out of their  notebooks, which all were, after some degree of fussing, eventually able to do.  The next instruction, “Fold the paper lengthwise in half”, was the start of problems. People held their papers in the air, waving them at Bernie for help.  Others folded theirs width-wise. A couple people made fans and stared cooling themselves off. One student unintentionally created an origami rabbit.Another started coughing and used the paper for a tissue.

After an inordinate amount of time spent to produce the name signs, Bernie started the lesson by distributing books and then introducing herself. Books were held upside down, even more people nodded off, and Bernie was told repeatedly that she was speaking too softly. Bernie spoke loudly and slowly.  Most students stayed awake and paid attention.

Bernie began with the basics.  She told the students that how they sat in the car was as important as how they drove the car. Proper body positioning was critical, especially the need to see above the steering wheel. “How many of you have ever seen a car in front of you that looked like no one was driving?  Then you pass the car and see that there is a driver, but the driver is driving by looking though the steering wheel.”  Most students seemed perplexed, until one woman raised her hand and said, “I’m 4’8″.  I raise the seat as high as it goes. I have wood blocks attached to the pedals. I still can’t see above the steering wheel.”  Everyone nodded in agreement.

Bernie moved on with other topics. Things were gong pretty well, until she mentioned the use of the GPS, the Blue Tooth system, and cautioned the students not to speak on their cell phones while driving. Hands flew up and people started whispering to neighbors (or, at least, they believed they were whispering).

Everyone had questions about cell phones, mostly asking Bernie to explain things about their phones that they didn’t understand. Bernie passed her phone around the room, and the students all passed theirs around. Every asked questions .  These questons had nothing to do with driving. Bernie answered most questions as best as she could.  She never got to explain the GPS or Blue Tooth systems.

Bernie gave up further discussion and decided to show a video to accompany what had been discussed in the book.  The equipment wasn’t working, and Bernie asked the class if anyone was familiar with how to get the DVD player to play.  A hand shot up and Joyce gratefully called on the student. “Can we go back to folding paper?” the student asked.

When the class ended, Bernie thanked everyone for attending, woke up the sleepers, and waved good-bye to all departing students. After everyone was gone, she was alarmed to realized two things: One was that these people would actually be on the road, at some point.  The other was that she was now holding the wrong cell phone.