Leslie Nearhoof, 76, admittedly has had a "heavy foot" for most of his 60-year-driving career.
The Altoona man loves big band music, going to church, spending time with his sweetheart and driving his Cadillac.
"I try to keep it under 100," Nearhoof said of his speed.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Leslie Nearhoof of Altoona and Jeanne Bolger of Martinsburg have taken the Seniors for Safe Driving course to update their knowledge of the rules of the road and learn how to overcome the effects aging can have on driving.
He joked his stiffening right leg somehow wants to keep the throttle to the floor some days.
For many seniors, however, the changes that come with an aging body can deter their ability to safely operate a vehicle.
Programs are available locally to help senior drivers re-learn the laws of the road and have their car assessed to prevent accidents.
June 12, 5 to 9 p.m. (refresher course) at Altoona Regional, Allegheny Room, sixth floor.
July 14, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Altoona Regional, Rotunda Room, sixth floor.
Aug. 7, 5 to 9 p.m. (refresher course) at Altoona Regional, Allegheny Room, sixth floor.
Sept. 15, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (refresher course) at Altoona Regional, Rotunda Room, sixth floor.
Oct. 9, 5 to 9 p.m. (refresher course) at Altoona Regional Health System, Allegheny Room, sixth floor.
Nov. 13 and 14, 5 to 8:30 p.m. at Altoona Regional, Allegheny Room, sixth floor.
Dec. 8, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (refresher course)
at Altoona Regional, Rotunda Room, sixth floor.
To register, call 800-559-4880 or visit www.sfsd.com or seniorsforsafedriving.com
May 19, June 16, Aug. 18, Oct. 20, Dec. 8., all at 8 a.m. at Blair Senior Center, 1320 12th Ave. Cost is $12 for AARP members; $14 for nonmembers. Lunch is provided.
Nov. 17, free eight-hour course for veterans and spouses.
July 21 and Sept. 8, 9 a.m. four-hour refresher courses will be held at Blair Senior Center.
To register, call 946-1235.
Robert Deweese, 76, teaches the eight-hour AARP driving courses at Blair Senior Center one Saturday a month. He said the course gives an awareness of the driving laws as they have changed through the years.
Nearhoof recently took a refresher driver's course through the Northern Blair Senior Center.
The course, Seniors for Safe Driving, is much like the AARP course that allows individuals 55 or older to review the laws of driving and adapt to driving as they age.
The incentive is the federally approved 5 percent car insurance deduction. Seniors can take either the AARP or the Seniors for Safe Driving class every three years and receive the discounts again.
Nearhoof said he initially took the seven hour course over two days - for the discount. He admitted he learned some things along the way.
"I feel that everyone regardless of age should take this course. It prepares you to drive objectively," he said.
Seniors for Safe Driving instructor Don Kobak said the course aims to help seniors realize their body and reaction time has changed with age.
"[The course] reminds us we're not 20 years old anymore," Kobak said.
Kobak, who is also the manager of the Northern Blair Senior Center, decided to teach the class because he was a student 10 years ago who benefited from it.
Students learn the influences changes in vision, hearing and even their medications can have on their driving ability.
Night driving, poor weather conditions and how to navigate around tractor-trailers are some of the issues discussed.
Nearhoof's sweetheart, Jeanne Bolger, also drives a Cadillac.
Bolger, 84, of Martinsburg has a new outlook on life since she was diagnosed with colon cancer in August 2010.
"I couldn't drive for almost a year," she said.
"I was very shaky and unsure when I started driving again," said the former Blair County jury commissioner and admitted she "hated turning around to back up. I hate to back up."
She said she is a good night driver as her vision is still tip-top.
Nearhoof said his eye sight is good also, and he has no problem driving at night.
Deweese recommends seniors test their peripheral vision on a regular basis, because their vision may not be as good as they think.
One way to check, he said, is to look straight ahead and hold your hands out to the side and wiggle the thumbs, moving them outward until the thumbs are no longer visible.
The exercise tests how much a person can see to the side.
"I teach alternative mirror adjusting," Deweese said, "There is a different way to adjust your side mirror," he said, that will aid seniors with the "blind spot."
To help seniors make adjustments, Altoona Regional Health System introduced a program April 21 called CarFit.
The program is a 12-point assessment of the vehicle itself, said Dana Tomlinson, occupational therapist and certified car fit technician
She said the technicians do not assess anyone's driving skills but examine side mirrors, headrest positions, the driver's ability to reach handles and knobs in the car and a measure of the distance between the chest and the steering wheel.
Another CarFit event is being planned for September, Tomlinson said.
For seniors who do need to make adjustments, the AARP website lists car modifications they can consider such as pedal extenders, a spinner knob for those who have weakness in one arm, cushions and hand controls.
Taking the safe drivers' class helps, too. Nearhoof saved $40 on his insurance from taking the course.
And although he has had his share of accidents in the last 10 years, he said none were his fault.
He has hit three deer and his Buick was T-boned four years ago when a driver failed to stop for the red light and smashed the driver's side.
"Every Sunday they kid me at church. They say 'Leslie, did you keep it under 100 this week?'"
Nearhoof said he has been slowing down as he heads out Interstate 99 to see Bolger.
"I try to keep it at 60 or 65."