To many, driving is a symbol of independence. There comes a time, however, when families must make the decision whether to let their aging parents continue to get behind the wheel of a car.
"The question is, when do you give up the keys to your car," said Russ Quarles, the assistant state coordinator and instructor for AARP.
"Age is not the factor. It's when you see dents in the car, failing to obey the law, such as stopping at a red light, or when you feel you might hurt or kill someone," he said.
Mr. Quarles and other instructors in the area teach a safety driving course sponsored by AARP. The class is aimed toward people in their 50s and older, but is open to anyone with a driver's license, Mr. Quarles said.
The four-hour, two-day course covers many aspects of driving, including proper vehicle condition and maintenance, bad driving habits and physical changes that many seniors undergo that might affect their driving skills.
"We go through all sorts of physical changes (as we age)," Mr. Quarles said. "People need to learn how medication affects you and realizing your limitations behind the wheel."
The class also covers hazards that surround a driver while they are on the road.
"It's about the partners on the road," he said. "They may be drinking, sleepy, not paying attention or reading.
Students learn to deal with aggressive drivers and people with road rage. Mr. Quarles said he has each student learn the acronym FIDO, which means Forget It and Drive On.
"You can create a road rage situation where you can get into a fight. Don't pay attention to someone who gives you the finger," Mr. Quarles said.
Besides learning about safety issues, students also receive a 10 percent deduction for car insurance by Georgia law. This includes a 10 percent discount on car damage, medical coverage and liability for three years, Mr. Quarles said.
Instructors also have their students give feedback on how the classes have helped them.
"The most common comment is I didn't know as much as I thought," he said.
Reach Rebecca A. Smith at (706) 823-3552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next class will be held Wednesday-Thursday, Jan. 25-26, at Brandon Wilde, 4275 Owens Road, in Evans. The cost is $10. For time and more information, call Russ Quarles at 863-0003.