OFF TO WORK ... with Keith Croffoot, an AARP driver safety instructor
by Bill Edwards
Star Staff Writer
Mar 28, 2011 | 3524 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Keith Croffoot, who'll be 75 himself next month, enjoys helping older drivers maintain their driving skills. His oldest student ever? She was 96. Croffoot is shown behind the wheel of his own vehicle. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
Keith Croffoot, who'll be 75 himself next month, enjoys helping older drivers maintain their driving skills. His oldest student ever? She was 96. Croffoot is shown behind the wheel of his own vehicle. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
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This morning at a downtown Anniston church, up to two dozen people will gather to learn how to be better drivers.

They’ll be benefiting from Keith Croffoot’s three years of experience going off to work as a driver safety instructor.

He’s carrying out a specialized lesson plan under the auspices of the AARP, which since 1960 has offered brush-up tips to its clientele. No tests, no road practice are involved — that’s why Croffoot’s not a “driving instructor” in the traditional sense of the term.

But thanks to a recently created DVD, the course being offered now is said to be superior to any the retired persons’ organization has offered before.

At least that’s what Croffoot has heard from one of his students.

He just knows he likes the work. The only monetary reward he gains is compensation for meals and gasoline when he travels.

“I enjoy doing it. It’s rewarding to me to help people,” said the Illinois native, who’ll be 75 next month. Before he retired, he was a fireman at Anniston Army Depot.

It’s help that can benefit people in a couple of ways.

For one, it might save a life if an older driver puts into practice a skill tip learned in class, or obeys a traffic law he hadn’t previously been aware of or had never paid much attention to before.

Secondly, it can save money. Certification of completing the course is good for a discount on automobile insurance premiums, at least with most companies, Croffoot said.

“Everyone can use all the breaks they can get,” he said.

The cost of the 8-hour course — two mornings of four hours each — is minimal: $12 for AARP members and $14 for non-members. Any licensed driver of any age is allowed to take the course, meaning that a grandchild accompanying a grandparent would certainly not be turned away, he said.

Recertification is required every three years to maintain the discount, he added.

Although Calhoun County has been “home base” for Croffoot and his wife, Janet, for 35 years, the couple’s fondness for traveling led him to learn about the AARP course while they were semi-permanently living in Texas. He first took the course, then he became certified to teach it — even in teaching others to teach it.

In fact, almost all of the courses Croffoot has taught in the past three years — he puts that number in the ballpark of 250 — have been in the town of Mission, Texas, near Brownsville.

He taught his first course back home — now Oxford, where the couple bought a house last year — in February.

Because of the number of classes he’s overseen, Croffoot doesn’t have to do much to prepare for a new one.

“I’ve taught so many I can go anyplace in this book and know how I’m gonna teach it,” he said, referring to the official 120-page “Participant Workbook.”

The book includes not only information about potentially hazardous situations and how to avoid or handle them, but also takes into account that most of the students using it are older — 50 and up is AARP’s target market — and thus have a lifetime of habits to either build on or correct.

For example, as any young whippersnapper might suspect, older drivers “obey the speed limit probably more than anybody else,” Croffoot said.

And yes, he said, he has had one driver ask him, “Am I supposed to use turn signals?”

So what’s the leading cause of accidents among older drivers?

Failure to yield right-of-way, meaning, you didn’t let the other guy be where he was allowed to be.

Sometimes, Croffoot explained, that failure is due to the older driver’s depth perception becoming less astute than it once was, especially at night.

And while no particular medication is mentioned in the course, Croffoot said, course material does bring out the importance of consulting one’s doctor or pharmacist about any hazardous side effects that a drug or combination of drugs might produce.

New traffic laws, such as those requiring highway motorists to give clearance to a stopped law enforcement vehicle, are also covered.

“There’s a lot of little pointers in this class,” he said.

If you know of anyone who’ll talk about what he or she does for a living, or if you are such a person yourself, drop a line to bedwards@annistonstar.com for a possible write-up in “Off to Work.”
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