Senior drivers in Tennessee could get a discount on their insurance for taking an online driving course, under a bill unanimously approved by the state Senate on Wednesday.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Faulk of Kingsport and supported by the AARP was approved 31-0.
The AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, currently offers an 8-hour driving class for its members, but people who live in rural areas of the state sometimes face a challenge finding a location where they can take it. Insurance discounts are currently offered to those who take the class in-person.
Supporters of the bill say offering the course online would not only provide convenience, but promote safety by allowing seniors to hone their skills.
Patrick Willard, AARP Tennessee’s advocacy director, said it helps them recognize “changes they need to make to their driving habits so that they will be more safe in the future.”
Currently, AARP offers as many as 500 courses across the state each year and has about 6,000 participants. The lectures _ which are augmented with video _ remind seniors that as they age, certain abilities, such as their reflexes, may deteriorate.
John Davis, deputy state coordinator for AARP’s Driver Safety Program, said at least 15 people are needed to form a class, but acknowledged it’s sometimes difficult to arrive at that number in isolated areas.
“If someone can take this course online, they can do it at their leisure,” Davis said. “They don’t have to wait till a group of 15 or so can be assembled.”
Willard said online courses are now offered in 10 other states.
An independent third party would verify the identity of the person taking the course by asking various questions throughout the 8-hour process. For instance, Willard said the questions may come from the person’s registration.
“So there are ways that you can make sure that the person taking the course is the person that should be getting the discount,” he said, adding that the amount of the discount will be up to insurance companies.
The Tennessee Department of Safety must approve the online course. Department spokesman Mike Browning said the agency does not oppose the legislation.
A companion bill is being scheduled for a vote on the House floor.
“It’s just a nice bill that allows seniors to access the program more easily,” said House sponsor Phillip Johnson, R-Pegram.
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