The Saskatchewan Safety Council is entering the busiest time of year for its 55 Alive Mature Driving Course.
The course focuses on helping longtime drivers assess and modify their driving habits and is particularly busy at this time of year.
“A lot of older drivers don’t drive in the winter,” 55 Alive instructor Lee Carlson says. “As soon as we get into spring the sun is shining and the roads get better so they like to get out. They’ve had some cabin fever, so they want to get out and do some driving.”
The course helps drivers who are 50 and older by reviewing current driving knowledge and habits, as well as the challenges associated with growing older. Carlson says the changes start to appear around that age.
“That when we begin to experience changes in our mental capacity, our cognitive skills, physical ability, things like that,” Carlson says. “It’s going to affect different people at different times and stages of their lives, but they say generally around the mid-50s.”
This year the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) and Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) are sponsoring the program, with the CAA launching a website to support the course.
“We try to get drivers to think about their driving, think about their own capabilities, what might be their limitations, some of the changes they’re going through,” Carlson says. “As we age we undergo physical and mental changes, so we need to be aware of that.”
Carlson describes the course as more of a refresher than anything. It includes a self-evaluation of current driving habits, as well as instruction on how the aging process affects drivers.
“We have more older drivers than ever before, and the older driver is more at risk of collisions than any other driver except our young drivers around the age of 16-22,” Carlson says. “We’re involved in crashes for different reasons, but again, there’s certain things that the mature driver needs to be aware of, because we want to make sure we stay safe and responsible on that roadway.”
Carlson says this is a course even good drivers should take. He says developing bad habits becomes easier the more you drive, not less.
“A lot of these drivers, because they’ve been on the road so much, they become complacent, and quite often their attention might wander a little bit. They’re not as alert and sharp as they should be.”
The 55 Alive course is offered primarily in Saskatoon and Regina, although instructors will make trips out to smaller communities if there is enough demand. The one-day course is free to take and does not affect your driving record.
“There’s no test and it does not affect their licence,” Carlson says. “That’s a really big deterrent for some people. They think it’s going to happen but it’s not.”
Carlson is in his 12th year as an instructor. He says the purpose isn’t to grade people, but to provide a bit of a refresher, and so far the reception has been good.
“I travel all over the province doing these courses and I’ve never ever had anything negative,” he says. “Everybody’s taking something positive and constructive away from the program.”