CHP offers free driving classes for seniors, teens

The Oakhurst office of the California Highway Patrol has scheduled two free public driving classes - one for seniors on Nov. 20 - and one for teens Dec. 3.

Most people change how they drive as they age, choosing to drive only during daylight hours, limiting where they drive, or cutting back on how often they drive. It is important to plan ahead and take the necessary steps to ensure older drivers remain safe while behind the wheel.

With that in mind, the CHP implemented the “Age Well, Drive Smart” program to assist older drivers and their families with this issue. The program was designed to provide older drivers with the tools to remain safe on the road.

At times, according to the CHP, driving appears to be relatively easy, but it is in fact a complex skill.

“The ability to drive safely is affected by changes in our physical and mental conditions,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said. “Many of these changes take place as we get older, though in different ways and at different times.

The Oakhurst CHP office is inviting older drivers to attend the free two-hour “Age Well, Drive Smart” class that provides older residents the tools to driving safer and longer. The class will be offered at 10 a.m., Friday, Nov. 20, at the Oakhurst CHP Office, 40500 Redbud Drive.

“The class is a great way for our seniors to educate themselves, evaluate their driving abilities, and improve their driving skills,” said Oakhurst Area CHP Public Information and Training Officer Kaci Lutz.

Class for teens and parents

The CHP Oakhurst office will also host a two-hour “Start Smart” driving class for teenagers and their parents at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3.

“Start Smart” is a CHP program designed to provide teens and their parents/guardians with an interactive safe driving awareness class which will illustrate how poor choices behind the wheel of a vehicle can affect the lives of numerous people.

“Start Smart” educates teenagers and parents about the responsibilities they face and teaches them how to stay safe on the road. The class will also focus on responsibilities on newly-licensed drivers, responsibilities of parents/guardians, and collision avoidance techniques.

Traffic collisions are the No. 1 killer of teenagers in the United States, ending more young lives every day than cancer, homicide, and suicide combined.

“Among all drivers, teenagers are at the greatest risk for a collision and are more prone to distraction than any other age demographic,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said. “A national study from the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety has shown that teenagers are distracted almost a quarter of the time they are behind the wheel.”

In 2013, the California Department of Motor Vehicles reported the state had 864,974 licensed drivers aged 15-19. The CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System showed that more than 19,000 of them were involved in fatal or injury collisions.

The teenage driver was at fault in 12,622, or 66% of those collisions. This is a slight improvement from 2012, when more than 20,000 California drivers age 15-19 were involved in fatal or injury collisions, in which 13,424, or 67% were at fault.

“Parents are the strongest influence on their teens’ driving attitudes and behaviors ... by the time they drive, your children have been watching, listening, and learning from everything you have been doing behind the wheel for the past 15 years,” said Kelly Browning, executive director of Impact Teen Drivers. “As a parent, when you model safe driving behaviors, you could save your child’s life.”

Seating for both classes is limited, and reservations are required.

Details and reservations: Oakhurst Area CHP Public Information and Training Officer Kaci Lutz, (559) 658-6611.