Wed11262014

Senior Lifestyles

Seniors sharpen their driving skills through CHP program


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier

Los Altos resident Bob Giusto, a member of the CHP’s Senior Volunteer Program, teaches driving skills.

Driving is risky business at any age but especially for seniors.

In an effort to help older motorists recognize and adjust to challenges that affect their driving skills as they age, the California Highway Patrol in cooperation with the state Department of Motor Vehicles sponsors the Age Well Drive Smart program. The training, designed to reduce motor vehicle collision and pedestrian deaths, targets seniors and their families while promoting the CHP’s mission to “provide the highest level of safety, service, and security.”

The Joint Los Altos/Los Altos Hills Senior Commission hosted several dozen local drivers for a half-day Age Well Drive Smart seminar at the Los Altos Senior Center Oct. 17, marking the 42nd presentation the CHP has hosted since the program’s inception in Santa Clara County in 2008.

“It’s part refresher and any new information we can give them,” said trainer Arlene Wilson.

Wilson said the program focuses not only on reviewing and teaching road rules, but also on providing tips and tools that empower motorists in their driving and transportation choices.

During the four-hour training, members of the CHP’s Senior Volunteer Program facilitated a course that addressed topics as diverse as dispelling myths associated with senior drivers, reviewing the effects of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications on drivers and considering when to hand over your keys.

Facilitators encouraged participants to control their driving capabilities by maintaining good nutrition, body strength and mental vitality as well as getting adequate rest.

A series of interactive exercises drew participants out of their chairs to test for visual acuity, depth perception, peripheral vision, response time and other physical skills.

An officer from CHP’s San Jose office answered seniors’ questions, which ranged from the minimum speed limit on the highway to how long a motorist should wait before moving forward after a pedestrian has vacated a blinking crosswalk.

According to Los Altos resident Bob Giusto, a CHP Senior Volunteer Program member since 2000, the statewide Age Well Drive Smart curriculum evolved from a traffic safety program first launched in Redwood City in 2001.

With support from a California Office of Traffic Safety grant, the program has expanded to reach more than 1,100 seniors in Santa Clara County since 2008.

In addition to a program manual and educational materials from the DMV, participants receive a graduation certificate at the end of the session.

According to Giusto, some program graduates are able to lower their insurance rates as a result of completing the program.

“As we progress (in age), we should become more aware,” he said, adding that he plans to continue helping seniors keep themselves and others safe.

For more information on Age Well, Drive Smart, visit www.chp.ca.gov/community/octs.html.

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