Driving School Not Just for Teens in California

With a quarter of motorists expected to be older than 65 in less than a decade, the state highway patrol says a refresher course is in order.

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Mantai Chow—AP

The wisdom that our later years hopefully bring is rarely accompanied by improved vision, reflexes, flexibility and hearing, the very things needed to not be a hazard to oneself and others on the road.

So says the California Highway Patrol, which helpfully notes that some of the skills necessary for safe driving "may deteriorate with age."

The risks that come with elderly motorists extends beyond California, with a federal agency last month reporting an 8.2 percent increase in fatal crashes in 2016 where the driver was 65-years-old or older.

And the count of older drivers is expanding. In 2015, there were more than 40 million licensed drivers 65 and older in the U.S., an increase of 50 percent from 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also noted the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as people age. In 2014, more than 5,700 older adults were killed and more than 236,000 were treated in emergency departments for motor vehicle crash injuries, according to the CDC. The tally means 16 older adults are killed and 648 injured in crashes on average each day.

In looking ahead to an anticipated onslaught of seniors behind the wheel—the state agency cites projections that a quarter of drivers will be older than 65 by 2025—the CHP on Tuesday made an appeal to the 65-and-older set, pitching free classes dubbed "Age Well, Drive Smart."

The approximately two-hour long class is being offered at local CHP offices and senior centers within the community, and offers instructions for driving safer and longer, the agency said.

"Our senior driving class will help refresh driving skills," CHP Acting Commissioner Warren Stanley said. 

The CDC has its own set of advice for helping older drivers stay safe on the roads, including advocating exercise to remain flexible and having your eyes checked by a doctor at least once a year.

And for those feeling the deterioration that comes with age, Stanley at the CHP, had some heartening words.

As he put it: "One of the most critical assets for safe driving is experience, and experience does not decline with age."

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