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Do you remember taking Driver’s Education in high school? I distinctly remember my semester class in 1957 before turning 16, with dear Mr. Cockey. We had a text book with lots of reading material as well as AV material, followed of course by the parking lot and on-road driving experience. Tall and lanky, Mr. Cockey always asked to be seated first in the front seat of the car so that he could have his legs placed before I got in the driver’s side and adjusted the seat forward to suit my much shorter specifications.

That all seemed so long ago when I decided in August to take a driver’s course online for “mature drivers” in order to get a reduced rate on my car insurance. (That course is I Drive Safely at idrivesafely.com.) Not only does the course cost money — almost $20 — but it takes a couple of weeks to complete because of all the reading material and periodic tests with no guarantee that one will pass the final exam! With my busy schedule I was constantly stopping and starting the course. When I started on Aug. 30, I was expected to complete it by Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021!

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Touted as the Maryland Senior Drivers Improvement Course, the course consisted of six major units and a final exam. The Units were: Introduction, The Driver, Impaired Driving, The Driving Environment, Driving Emergencies, The Vehicle, and Final Exam. Each unit consisted of four to seven chapters, each chapter seven or eight pages long. Tests were scattered throughout the readings and at the ends of sections. Scores on tests must be at least 80% or the tests must be taken over with both similar and different questions being asked. There were 40 final exam questions with passing being 80%.

What I learned from the 1950s until now is that there have been significant changes, changes that have been impacted by the updates to modern cars, the amount of traffic on roadways, additional roadway signage, safety updates, and significant increases in fatal crashes on roadways.

While much of the material is based on common sense, there are many new items to be aware of. For example, the list of possible signage on roadways has gone up dramatically. There are hundreds of signs, many of which are very new and called for because of the latest driving developments and roadway traffic patterns.

Then there is the safe driving space in front of and behind the car, assuming you can “control” the tailgater! We used to be taught one car length for every 10 miles of speed behind the driver in front. Now the distance is counted off in seconds.

And one final change that has been affected by the installation of air bags is the placement of the hands on the steering wheel. Whereas the rule used to be at 10 and 2 on the wheel, the rule now is 4 and 8 for greater control and safety should the airbag deploy.

Other interesting statistics should give us pause as mature drivers when we venture onto our busy roads.

Each year in the United States, with a crash occurring every 30 seconds, approximately 3 million people are injured and 40,000 people are killed in traffic collisions, the leading cause of death for people ages 3 to 33. Among those killed, teenage drivers have the highest death rates per miles driven, followed by elderly drivers and young adult males. Interestingly, though, drivers over 65 represent only about 15% of the driving population. And the cost of crashes exceeds $230 billion dollars every year!

The top 12 causes of fatal crashes, in order, are:

1. Failing to maintain lane position

2. Speeding

3. Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and other medications

4. Failing to yield the right-of-way

5. Inattention

6. Reckless driving

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7. Failing to obey traffic signs or signals

8. Improper driving technique

9. Making an improper turn

10. Drowsy driving

11. Obscured vision

12. Driving the wrong way on a one-way street

How many of these have we been guilty of over our driving careers? I know that I encounter many of these in my day to day driving, especially numbers 1, 2, 5 and 6. I have followed too many drivers who are swerving in and out of their lane because of texting. I have been followed by too many tailgaters who cannot possibly stop in time should there be a need for me to stop quickly.

A couple sample final exam questions might be of interest to you should you decide you want to take the course for yourself. I have not provided the answers for security reasons.

Aggressive drivers _______ two to four times more people than alcohol-impaired drivers.

a. Maim

b. Collide with

c. Injure

d. Annoy

According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), the combination of the front air bag and a seat belt reduces the risk of serious crash-related head injury by _______ percent.

a. 83

b. 77

c. 50

d. 60

I will tell you that I missed one of those questions because I had not memorized a correct number from the reading text!

I am happy to say that the course only took me from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14 and that I passed the final exam with an 85%.

Hallelujah, that is over — for now. A certificate was forthcoming from I Drive Safely that I happily took to my insurance company for a nice rebate on my car insurance for the next three years.

Hermine Saunders writes from Westminster. Her Prime column appears on the second Sunday of the month.

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