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AAA classes aim to teach older drivers some new tricks

Mon., April 23, 2007

An 85-year-old man was arrested last week for a downtown Spokane hit-and-run crash that sent a man to the hospital with broken bones and internal injuries.

Earlier in the month, a 78-year-old Pullman woman was killed when her 84-year-old husband crossed the centerline, hitting another vehicle.

A crash killed a 72-year-old motorcycle rider last July when he tried to turn onto Highway 395 near Loon Lake and was hit by a minivan.

Driving can be dangerous for senior citizens whose vision and reflexes have declined over the years. Yet thousands drive around town every day without problems.

Recognizing and adapting to new limitations is a key part of any older driver’s success, said Bruce Clark, who teaches a mature driver class for AAA.

“We focus a lot on how aging affects drivers,” said Clark.

The top issues include diminishing eyesight and increased sensitivity to bright headlights, limits to neck and arm range of motion, and longer response times.

Some people choose to stick to specific routes, avoid the freeway or only drive during the day, said Clark.

One of the things he recommends to keep drivers focused is to talk out loud about driving while on the road, noting traffic lights, reading traffic signs and reminding themselves of safe behaviors.

So how do you know when it’s time to give up the car keys?

“That’s a difficult decision,” said Clark.

He said key warning signs are getting lost on regular routes, repeated fender benders, lots of other drivers honking at you on the road and lots of traffic tickets.

Mature drivers can learn more about how to improve their driving at one of AAA’s classes, which cost $14 for members and $20 for nonmembers. Many insurance companies offer policy discounts for people who complete the eight-hour class.

The next sessions are May 19, May 26, May 30-31, June 2, June 5-6 and June 9.

For information, call AAA at (509) 358-6900.

Litter everywhere

Maybe it’s just Getting There’s imagination, but local roadways sure seem to be surrounded by more trash this spring than usual.

The section of Interstate 90 near Post Falls is particularly ugly, with paper, plastic bags and other junk visible everywhere.

The Washington State Department of Transportation planned to work over the weekend gathering as much trash as possible. Volunteer Adopt-A-Highway crews annually collect about 600 tons of litter.

Even with the volunteers, WSDOT spent more than $2 million last year picking up trash along the roadside.

When you add in other agencies like the Washington Department of Ecology, Washington spent $10 million last year picking up after drivers who either didn’t secure trash loads or threw garbage out of their cars.

Maybe if the state spent $10 million on extra enforcement to nail the creeps who litter, the state would look green.

Joint mobility

The second of two Tacoma Narrows Bridge joints is scheduled to leave Spokane Valley today, on its way across the state.

Its four-day Spokane stay is just a fraction of the close to a month that the first joint spent in the area as it waited for a trailer with the proper wheel configuration to meet state weight limits.

Be prepared for some tie-ups on Interstate 90 as the joint rolls west.

Slow going


In Idaho, I-90 is reduced to one lane in each direction from about Mullan Road to Exit 22 at U.S. Highway 97 as crews work on the Blue Creek Bay Bridges. The speed limit has been reduced to 55 mph and vehicle widths are limited to 14 feet.

Downtown Spokane

Crack-sealing work could close one lane of Washington Street and one lane of Stevens Street at times between Third Avenue and Spokane Falls Boulevard.

North Spokane

Work to add left-turn lanes to U.S. Highway 395 at Wild Rose Road could cause some traffic delays. Turns are restricted.

Maple Street is closed from Northwest Boulevard to just north of Wellesley Avenue until the end of June. Wellesley is reduced to one lane in each direction at Ash Street and Maple Street.

Freya Street is closed from Euclid to Garland and from Market Street to Gerlach Road.

Regal Street is closed from Lacrosse Avenue to Rich Avenue.

South Spokane

Drivers will find 29th Avenue reduced to one lane in each direction between Southeast Boulevard and Freya Street through May while a water main is installed and the roadway is repaved.

Palouse Highway safety improvement work may cause delays between 57th Avenue and state Highway 27.

Spokane Valley

Several streets are closed in the area of Evergreen Road, Valleyway and Best Road in Spokane Valley for sewer work. Springfield, Alki, Nixon and Valleyway are all closed from Evergreen to Best; Nixon is also closed from Best to Calvin; Bannen Road and Bolivar Road are closed from Sprague to Valleyway; and Calvin is closed from Main to Nixon.

North Idaho

Government Way is under construction in Hayden between Honeysuckle and Wyoming.


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