Never too early or late to learn good driving skills

Today’s Street Smarts column is dedicated to improving traffic safety awareness among older and teen drivers. It’s dangerous to be an senior or young driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2008, 13 percent of this country’s entire population, or 34 million people, were age 65 and older. Of them 31 million were licensed to drive in 2007. In 2008, 183,000 older adults were injured in traffic crashes. That’s 8 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes that year. Older adults made up 15 percent of all traffic fatalities, 14 percent of all vehicle occupant fatalities, and 18 percent of all pedestrian fatalities. As for young people between the ages of 15 and 20, traffic collisions are the leading cause of death in the United States -- more than homicide, suicide and all other causes of death, the administration said. Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times the fatal traffic collisions than all other drivers, the administration said. Below is a list of local driving education courses aimed at teens and seniors this June in Santa Cruz County. AARP Driver Safety Class An AARP Driver Safety Class will be taught 12:30 p.m. on June 12th and 19th at the Scotts Valley Senior Center., 370 Kings Village Road in Scotts Valley. The two-part, eight hour long class teaches seniors about the impacts of their aging bodies, new technology  in motor vehicles and new traffic laws on their driving. It also helps seniors come to terms with the possibility of hanging up their car keys for goo d if their health does not allow for safe motoring. Each session lasts four hours. Participants must attend both parts to receive a certificate of completion. By presenting the certificate to their automobile insurance provider, participants may receive a discount of up to 10-percent on their premiums. The class is $12 for AARP members; $14 for non-members. For more information or to register, call Fred Dunn-Ruiz at 426-6472. Driver’s Yoga Driver’s who have trouble focusing on the road can sign up for Pete Peterson’s Driver’s Yoga class, offered Saturdays, June 5, 12 and 19. The two-hour workshop uses visualization skills to teach drivers how to deal with distractions while they are behind the wheel. This course is ideal for seniors and their adult children, as well as teens and their parents, Peterson said. The course costs $20 and will be held from 10 a.m. to noon each day at the Elena Baskin Live Oak Senior Center, 1777 Capitola Road in Live Oak. Similar to the AARP course, senior drivers can present the certificate issued at the end of class to their insurance company for a possible premium discount. For information or to R.S.V.P., contact Peterson at 332-4022 or Start Smart For the first time ever, the California Highway Patrol’s Smart Start teen driver safety program will be held in the Santa Cruz Police Department’s community room, rather than in the CHP’s Aptos office. “The classes were filling up so quickly that I had to turn people away,” said Sarah Jackson, the CHP officer who teaches Smart Start. The next class , which teaches about the dangers teens face while behind the wheel, is 6 p.m. June 16 at 155 Center St. in Santa Cruz. While the CHP’s briefing office, where the class had been taught since the program began several years ago, can easily accommodate 10 students and their parents, the new location can seat 30 students and their families. “For every single student, we usually have at least one parent and sometimes a sibling,” Jackson said. Future Smart Start sessions may be taught at varying locations countywide to further increase participation, she said. “The Santa Cruz Public Libraries has been talking to me about rotating through their different branches,” Jackson said, noting that the July session will be offered at the Scotts Valley Library. “For people coming from the San Lorenzo Valley, that commute time traffic is very difficult to get through on southbound Highway 1. So, people were either arriving really late or would say ‘never mind’ and don’t show up.” Participants receive a certificate of completion wt the course's end. For information or to reserve seats, call Jackson at 662-0511.
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