Class helps drivers relearn skills for the road ANNE ARUNDEL SENIORS

January 13, 1993|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

"There are two thrills you can get out of life. The first one is to get on an elevator and face backward. And the second one -- get behind the wheel of a car."

That's how 69-year-old Ed Stecher began class when he visited the Pascal Senior Center in Glen Burnie yesterday.

Mr. Stecher, a member of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), volunteers his time to help seniors relearn driving skills by stressing the importance of defensive driving.

"Always play the what-if game," he stressed to a classroom of more than 20 seniors. "Know your surroundings and program this stuff in your head so when a situation occurs, you have a learned response."

The course, 55-Alive/Mature Driving, is designed to help drivers 55 and older improve their skills and prevent traffic accidents.

Since 1969, the AARP has graduated more than 2 million seniors; an evaluation by the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that drivers who have taken the course are cited for fewer traffic violations.

The eight-hour classroom refresher course was the first nationwide comprehensive curriculum designed for the older motorist.

Mildred Zeun, 69, signed up for the $8 class to refine her driving skills and reduce her insurance rates by 10 percent.

"I've been driving for 50 years, so I thought I'd tone up a bit on it," said the Glen Burnie senior. "It wasn't the same back then. There weren't as many cars and there wasn't a driving course."

Mrs. Zeun began driving in a 1928 car that her father called "The Black Widow."

Jack Jones, 64, who also lives in Glen Burnie, said he takes refresher courses every two years.

"My biggest concern is staying alive," he said. "People who create a traffic hazard, like changing lanes without signaling and don't care, is one of my pet peeves."

Mr. Stecher teaches the class in six parts, including sessions on the physical changes that come with aging, interacting with traffic and avoiding accidents. He and the class discuss blind spots, passing, parallel parking and merging.

Park. "I really need to improve my driving," said 67-year old Helen Hann of Brooklyn. She added that it wasn't until recently that she had to do a great deal of driving. "For many years my husband drove me around," she said.

The AARP offers the 55-Alive classes quarterly at most of the county's senior centers.

Mr. Stecher, who has taught 10 classes and graduated more than 190 seniors, finishes each session with a warning:

"At some point . . . you're going to have to stop driving. It's difficult to lose the driving privilege, but there comes a time to stop. Each person knows that time."

For more information on the driving course, contact the local senior center.

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