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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award

The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke

2011 Winner: AARP Driver Safety Program

All 2011 Highway Safety Award Winners

AARP Driver Safety Program logo

The AARP Driver Safety Program (DSP) provides all drivers – especially those 50 years of age and older – with instruction to help improve their driving skills, drive crash-free, sustain mobility and maintain independence. Established in 1979, it is the largest and oldest driver safety program for people age 50 or older. The program receives no public or private funding; it is self-funded through course fees and support by AARP. The class is offered in both a traditional classroom setting and online. The online course is available 24/7 and is supported by a call center and live chat. Both are available in Spanish.

In 2010, under new leadership and with an enhanced commitment from AARP, the program reached 464,307 participants in 27,141 classroom courses taught by more than 7,000 volunteers in all 50 states D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. An additional 61,840 participants took the online course.

DSP instills defensive driving techniques, but it also teaches participants how to adjust their driving in response to age-related cognitive and physical changes that can affect driver performance. It continues to evolve, with curriculum revisions every few years.

AARP-trained volunteers conduct 100 percent of AARP Driver Safety Program classroom courses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The program trains and coordinates more than 7,500 driver safety volunteers.

In 2010, DSP introduced a new nationally standardized Comprehensive Training System to its volunteers, including training guides for all volunteer positions. The system was designed to provide quality training that will develop first-rate, high performing volunteers who enjoy volunteering with AARP and are motivated to move up through the AARP Driver Safety Program structure.

To date, more than 13 million participants have completed the classroom course. Due to declining classroom course enrollment, DSP developed and tested numerous marketing strategies, including: print, email, direct mail, and web-based promotions. In 2010, more than 975,000 people visited the aarp.org/drive website, and 319,000 used the web-based course locator to find a course in their area.

Many states require automobile insurance companies to provide a discount to drivers who complete an approved driver safety program. Getting states to recognize the online course as a qualified program has been a challenge. In 2010, an additional nine states granted formal approval, bringing the total to 19.

The AARP Driver Safety Program is changing the driving behaviors of course participants. Annual participant surveys reveal that almost all participants (93 percent) had changed at least one of their key driving behaviors as a result of the course. Many reported changing multiple behaviors. The most common changed behaviors were: always checking blind spots (73 percent), maintaining following distance and space cushion (65 percent); and paying more attention when entering or exiting highways (60 percent). Further, 79 percent felt the information they learned prevented them from being in a crash. Most participants have taken the DSP course more than one time.

In addition to making the roads safer in local communities, the AARP Driver Safety Program has the added benefit of helping to prolong the independence of older drivers, allowing them to postpone the need for caregivers to drive them to their doctors’ appointments and social activities.

For more information on the AARP Driver Safety Program, contact Julie Lee at
202-434-2819 or drive@aarp.org.