Osborne, 90, teaches final class after 55 years
by Wes Mayer
After teaching for more than 55 years, Jimmie Osborne taught her final class Thursday — an AARP Driver Safety course at the Coweta County Central Library.
For the last 21 years, Osborne has taught drivers’ education courses through the AARP. Before teaching about safety behind the wheel, though, Osborne retired from teaching children in New York state after 35 years, with 29 of those years as a kindergarten teacher. This year, Osborne turned 90 years old, and decided it was time to retire for a second time.
“[Teaching] is just something in my blood,” Osborne said.
This was Osborne’s sixth class in 2013, said Dana Wilcock, the AARP district coordinator for the southern side of Atlanta. Each year, Osborne taught around six classes of about 10 to 15, sometimes more than 30, students — this means Osborne has taught 126 driver safety classes and nearly 2,000 students since retiring formerly as a school teacher.
“To me, it’s more than making people aware,” Osborne said. “It’s about doing a service to the community.”
The AARP Driver Safety course is an indoor class that lasts for six hours over the course of a single day. Each student receives a guidebook containing safety information geared toward drivers over the age of 50. The guide focuses on issues drivers face as they get older, including an acceptance and understanding of problems affecting health such as sight, hearing and flexibility, and becoming familiar with new sights on the road. Osborne reminds aging drivers about the increasingly popular roundabouts, and gives lessons on how to drive under certain weather conditions or around angry drivers. The guide also contains a section with advice on how drivers should recognize when it is time to limit their driving or discontinue it entirely.
“I ask students not to put the guide on their shelves,” Osborne said, “but on their coffee table or someplace they can always see it. That way if a mishap happens, they can always go back to it.”
Osborne said the greatest mistake most drivers make, no matter their age, is not listening to their vehicles — and it may be surprising how many accidents occur because of this fact. Elderly drivers, in particular, simply get in their car, turn on their radio, and don’t notice or consider vehicle trouble, she said. Most drivers simply put gas in the tank and the key in the ignition, Osborne said, and most never look at the vehicle’s manual.
“How do you know your car if you don’t read the manual?” Osborne said. “It’s like baking a cake without knowing the ingredients.”
The course’s guide focuses on the areas in which elderly drivers have the most issues, mainly accidents. According to a chart inside, the most common violation for drivers over the age of 55 is failing to understand the right-of-way. Other common violations are making improper left turns, improper lane changes and failing to stop at a stop sign or stop light.
Osborne recommends all drivers over the age of 50 take the AARP Driver Safety class, and begin seeking a new class every two-and-a-half years. After completing the class, students receive a certificate they may send to insurance companies for a possible discount that lasts for up to three years.
The course is $12 for AARP members and $14 for non-members, and courses are taught all over the county, Osborne said.
“People don’t realize what they’re losing by not taking this class,” Osborne said.