The Value of Driver’s (re)Education

Do you know where your hands should be placed on the steering wheel? It’s not 10:00 and 2:00 anymore!

Think you’re smarter than the average driver?

Try this sample test question, which according to a national poll conducted by GMAC Insurance in 2010, nearly 73% of drivers answered incorrectly:

When driving, a safe following distance can be determined using which of the following formulas:

(A) One vehicle length for each 10 miles per hour of speed.
(B) A ten-second following distance.
(C) A three-second following distance.

The correct answer is (C). The “three-second rule” is the recommended formula used to determine the proper following distance when driving. It’s taught to teens in driver’s education classes around the country, but if you’re like many middle-age or older Americans, you may not be familiar with it.

But according to a Wall Street Journal Smart Money article last week, older Americans are more interested than ever in relearning the rules of the road through “driver’s ed” classes-taught online, in the classroom, and on the road.

I’ve always known the value of driver’s re-education-and it isn’t just the hope of an insurance discount (although it certainly doesn’t hurt, especially if you’re in one of the 36 states where a discount is mandated for completing a classroom course).

But more than that, driving literally isn’t what it used to be. Cars have changed, traffic laws have changed, and even the roads we drive on have changed. Add to this fact that the 50+ population represents a significant- and growing-proportion of American drivers. People are holding onto their licenses longer than they used to, and most haven’t taken a driver’s education course since their teens.

Recent technological developments-such as anti-lock brake systems and navigation (GPS) units-work to make driving safer, but can also be dangerous or distracting when used improperly. When you add in the unavoidable physical and cognitive changes of aging, including weakened vision, diminished hearing, and slower reaction time, driving can become a new challenge over age 50.

If you’re interested in relearning the rules of the road, consider taking a driver re-education program in a classroom setting or online.

What do you think is the value of older drivers taking some sort of driver’s ed?

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