Seniors: Is An Online Driver’s Course In Your Future?

August 30, 2011

Everybody loves to save money, and when you’ve reached a certain age and have more than a few gray hairs not covered with hair coloring, you’re even more likely to want a good deal. While a number of car insurance companies have offered seniors discounts on premiums for completing a driver’s ed course, a growing number are now making the savings available for online driver’s courses.

That’s right. No more physically going to a location and racking up time behind the wheel. Brush up on new laws and learn about some of the new technology in today’s new vehicles, all without leaving the comfort of home.

The best part for many seniors, however, is in how much they can shave off their auto insurance premiums. More than 30 states currently mandate discounts on auto insurance for seniors who successfully complete an approved senior driving course. So says data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. And while discounts vary by state, they range anywhere from 2 to 15 percent. Who wouldn’t want to save a few bucks with such a painless method?

Add taking the senior driving course, or mature driver improvement course, as some insurers call it, to other discounts for which you might be eligible, and the savings can really add up. Let’s see, there are good driver, multi-car policy, multi-policy, safety technology or devices, loyalty, accident-free, paying premium in full, low annual mileage, and a slew of other discounts offered by various auto insurance companies – if you qualify and if you ask for them.

But back to the online driver’s course with no driving test required. Is this really the best idea for senior drivers? On the one hand, it’s a whole lot easier than getting out and showing up at a physical driver’s ed facility. But don’t you miss out on the actual one-on-one feedback from the instructor sitting beside you or the ambiance of other students in the class with you?

Actually, there are arguments on both sides of the issue. Some feel that seniors benefit from learning at their own pace and incorporate a lot of knowledge about new driving laws, safety technology and features, defensive driving techniques and more by going online than sitting in a classroom. Others feel that learning material online is well and good but it can’t take the place of behind-the-wheel experience.

And those who are beginning to show some signs of physical and/or mental decline may need a more hands-on approach – if only to help seniors with diminished capacities understand they need to curtail their driving.

According to the AAA, by the year 2030 there will be more than 70 million Americans age 65 or older and at least 90 percent of them will be licensed to drive. This makes seniors the fastest-growing population in the United States. The AAA, by the way, offers its own senior driver improvement program, called Safe Driving for Mature Operators.

There’s also the AARP Driver Safety Program Online, an extension of its classroom course that has been offered since 1979. Completion of the online program may entitle seniors to a multi-year discount from their auto insurer, although in some states, separate rules may apply to online driver improvement courses.

Bottom line: For the price of about $20 and from four to eight hours in online course study, becoming a better senior driver is a pretty good deal. So is the opportunity to save a few dollars on insurance premiums.

[Wall Street Journal]


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