For many motorists (myself included), their last driving class was when they first got their license, and chances are that was many moons ago. The fact is, no matter how skilled or experienced you may be behind the wheel, a refresher course couldn’t hurt. Of course, a possible reduction on your car insurance doesn’t hurt either.
Here’s what to expect at a AAA driver improvement course, based on my own experience. Visit AAA.com/DIP to learn more.
The nationally-recognized AAA Driver Improvement Program is designed to provide the latest safety information and tips regarding traffic laws and basic rules of the road. The six-hour course can be taken in a classroom or online and depending on the state, completion of a program may provide for insurance discounts or violation point reduction.
In New York, where I took the class, a AAA driver improvement course certificate of completion can be presented to your insurance company for 10% off collision, liability and no-fault premiums every year for three years. You can also receive a reduction of up to four points from your driving record acquired within 18 months before the class.
For AAA Northeast members in other states, similar benefits are also available in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey, but not in Massachusetts. Click here to learn more about what is offered in the state that you are licensed in.
For two consecutive Thursday nights after work, I went to a local hotel to take the course. I enrolled online and chose to take it over two three-hour sessions instead of all at once. It was a full class and appeared to be a familiar practice for some, who return every three years to maintain their car insurance benefits.
My instructor, a retired police officer, said he has been teaching the AAA driver improvement course for fourteen years. He spoke frankly but friendly and was undeniably knowledgeable about safety and road laws. He began with the question, “What causes crashes?” And from there continued with an eight chapter workbook and video to answer that question and offer recommendations for prevention.
Topics covered included tips and reminders on vehicle maintenance, what to do in an emergency, traffic signs and road markings, and other basic principles such as avoiding road rage, drowsy driving and impaired driving. After each chapter, there was a short quiz, which the class took and discussed together.
We all consider ourselves good drivers, but there is always something new to learn. Cars and traffic continue to evolve over the years, and so the AAA Driver Improvement Program is constantly changing with them. As suspected, distracted driving and texting while driving were some of the top themes touched upon, as well as understanding new vehicle technologies such as blind spot sensors and backup cameras.
Some of the traditional road “rules” and old standbys most of us learned in driver’s ed class have also been rethought. Remember the 10 and 2 mantra for where to put your hands on the steering wheel? 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 is now the recommended placement as it’s better suited for now-standard power steering.
Some people could really use a defensive driving course, I thought, as I was driving home from the class and watched someone speed their way down a one-way side street. The moment only solidified what the instructor has been stressing the whole time: that being a good driver is not just about your own safety but the safety of others, and that awareness of your own actions is just as important as being alert to what is happening around you.
Whether you take it for the insurance benefits or simply because you want to feel safer on the road, the principles taught in the AAA driver improvement course are valuable for every driver.
The AAA Driver Improvement Program can be taken in a classroom or online. It is open to everyone, although AAA members are charged a lower fee. Visit AAA.com/DIP to learn more about the courses and benefits in your state and to enroll.