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Back on the road, and safer than before

Twenty minutes on the phone complaining with my auto insurance company about ever-increasing premiums once got me the satisfaction of a $1.39 refund.

And the indignity of being told by the agent on the other end of the line that maybe I should consider taking a mature driver course. Never mind that my last speeding ticket was in 1983, and I’ve never had an auto accident, knock on wood.

OK, I admit I’m not ready for the Daytona 500, but I’m as ready for Manatee County traffic as the next guy.

When my next six-month premium bill rolled around, the $1.39 refund was more than wiped out by the $100 hike in the bill.

So when I learned that the Manatee Community College Traffic Safety Institute was offering a six-hour mature driver class, I swallowed my pride and signed up.

I’m glad I did. With the certificate of completion, my classmates and I will be able to get a rate reduction from our insurance companies. It’s the law.

Pat McCabe, director of the Institute, presented the class himself and said the $15 class fee would be the best money we ever spent.

Going into the class, I was a little worried about spending that much time in a seat. But Pat saved the day with his enthusiasm, his conversational approach to the subject, his sense of humor, and his wisdom about handling road situations.

Pat is so passionate about making older drivers safer on the road, that although he plans to retire Tuesday, he wants to continue teaching the course.

He knows, and the insurance companies know, that the folks willing to take those mature driver classes are going to be more skilled, more careful, and at lower risk of being in an accident.

Here’s one tidbit I’ll share. Your driver side airbag could help save your life in the event of an accident. But it could also cause minor injury when it inflates. What can you do to minimize that risk? The textbook solution is to tilt your steering wheel toward your chest, rather than your head. Also, give yourself a little space between your girth and your steering wheel, maybe 10inches or so.

The six hours were filled with situations and tips like that, everything than from minimizing the hazards of the parking lot to avoiding road-rage confrontations and whether it’s better to go with the flow on interstate highways or obey the posted speed limit.

Pat also talked about a couple of developments in the Florida Legislature, which moves into special session next week.

One bill is headed to Gov. Charlie Crist’s desk for signature concerns seat belts. It would allow law enforcement officers to ticket drivers for failing to buckle up. The existing law allows tickets to be issued when a driver is pulled over for speeding or some other infraction. If the new bill becomes law, driving without being buckled up will get you or me a ticket all by itself.

Pat also noted that the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, allowing cameras to deter red light running, failed on the final day of the session. But look for more of those cameras to appear around in cities and counties, regardless of what the state does.

I also received a call Saturday morning from Melissa Wandall, who said that while she is disappointed lawmakers failed to agree on the bill, she intends to keep fighting for it to help stop the carnage caused by red light runners.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.

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