Coincidence, or needed refresher? You decide

“There are no coincidences.” I read that recently. I don’t know

who said it, but I don’t think he knew what he was talking about.

What would you call it when I get a notice from the DMV, telling me

that my California Driver’s License was to expire shortly and


suggesting that I make an appointment to take written and vision

tests -- and in the same mail receive a notice from my insurance

carrier, advising that it was time to renew my Mature Driver



The Mature Driver Certificate, good for three years, allows the

carrier to offer a reduced automobile insurance premium. You qualify

for it by attending an eight-hour class given by AAA. I have attended

before and know that the experience, although tiring, is pleasant.

Instruction is provided through the use of professionally prepared

videos, with a leader to guide discussion and answer questions.

Naturally, I headed for the local AAA office to make arrangements

for my wife and I to attend a class. After a rigmarole that it would


take a complete column to describe (and which would have discouraged

a less determined man), I managed to secure the help of an efficient

supervisor, who cut through the confusion and got us enrolled in a

class from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the following day in Arcadia.

The following morning found us sitting in comfortable chairs in a

bright, airy room with 20 men and women of our vintage. This class

is not like the ones you must attend when you have received a

citation for violating some driving law; it’s a class for people who


are good drivers -- no citations -- who want to continue to drive


At the start of the class, we were presented with new student

manuals, a current California Driver’s License manual and a dozen

pamphlets that presented some really fine information regarding road

rage, freeway call boxes, road signs, safety tips, etc. We probably

had our $21 worth in this collection of information we were to take

with us at the end of the day.

The sessions moved along pretty quickly. Most of the videos

described the new California driving laws and presented useful

strategies for developing good visual habits, communicating our

intentions to other drivers and avoiding collisions. We then saw

presentations on keeping a margin of safety, adjusting speed,

handling driving emergencies and preventive maintenance. They dealt

with drinking, prescription medications, emotional upset and

exhaustion, and their effect on driving abilities. They even gave a

special video on ABS brakes and how they differ from the braking

systems that many of us grew up with. It was a worthwhile


But I have to tell you that there is always someone in a class

like this that you would like to throw out the window, and we had a

doozy. He came in armed with the full 2 to 3-inch-thick California

Vehicle Code under his arm. He was going to save us from all of our

misconceptions and arm us with information to win our arguments with

arresting traffic officers. Many of the people in this class had

never had a citation and those who had ... well, it had been a long

time since, or they could not qualify for the discounted insurance


But our hero was not to be deterred by that. He “what if’d” after

every subject and tried to apply general information to very specific

scenarios that he presented. By lunch time, we were conspiring to do

away with him in some unpleasant manner, but once we had refreshed

ourselves, we returned with smiles and restored patience for more


Finally, one of the women sitting near him told him to “can it or

we’ll never get out of here” and the class leader and several others

told him that these videos were never designed to handle every

situation he could dream up. One lovely creature put it as succinctly

as you could want: “Shut up and listen.” It worked. We didn’t hear

any more from him.

We finished our class and received our certificates, which we

forwarded to our insurance carrier. It had been a good experience.

Although the people who prepared the videos are pretty tactful about

the way they present their message, we realize that much of the

material is designed to present methods of compensating for the

slower reaction time that many “mature” drivers experience. It’s good

to face that situation and be prepared for it; however, I do believe

that drivers of all ages can benefit from such information, and I

believe I would take this class periodically even if I weren’t

rewarded by my insurance carrier for my attendance.

If you are “over the hill” or close to it, you might want to check

with your insurance carrier and AAA to see whether you might be

rewarded for your attendance with discounted automobile insurance


* JERRY LANE is a resident of La Crescenta and a regular

contributor to the Community Forum. He can be reached via e-mail at