Local Man to Teach Smart Driver Program


When Henry Ford introduced the combustion engine automobile in the early 1900s, there were those who didn’t think that it would ever replace the horse and buggy. When a person bought a new Ford in those early days, a lot of time was spent on repairs. In fact, if one wanted to drive across the country one would often have to wait long periods of time to order parts from the East Coast and have them mailed. A woman in the 1900s described riding in her first automobile as “amazing,” and she said, “We were driving so fast, I thought the car was going to break apart.”

They were traveling at about 30 miles per hour.

Today’s advancement of the automobile seems to be coming much more rapidly than in those early days. Now there are companies that are working on fully autonomous vehicles – with on-board computers that will collect data on a driver and map routes before the driver programs them. These cars will monitor vital signs and brain activity, be equipped with external airbags and lights that will adjust to darkness and road conditions, and estimate routes that will save fuel. Meanwhile, fuel is changing from gasoline to solar and electric power.

New and future cars are confusing even for those who have grown up with smartphones in their hands. For those who remember the days when cars were driven entirely by people these innovations can be difficult to navigate.

In an attempt to help drivers understand the new options for vehicles, AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and The Hartford Company have teamed up to present Smart Driver TEK workshops. A local man has been chosen as one of four to teach the programs in California.

“The AARP is sending me to Washington, D.C. to participate in the workshop,” said Phil Downs.

The workshop, which Downs will be attending next week, will focus on the technology proposed by car companies, whether in use now or planned for the future.

“[The program] will [probably] turn out to be a 90-minute program,” he added.

Downs will be trained and then come back to the area to begin sharing the information. He has already secured the first presentation, which will be hosted in October by Bob Smith Toyota.

Downs was chosen in part because he has been teaching a driving safety class for mature drivers for more than 15 years.

“And my background with [California Highway Patrol] doesn’t hurt,” he added.

Downs was with CHP for 30 years and retired as a commander.

The program will cover details such as cars that can indicate blind spots, and have reverse monitoring systems, assistive parking systems and drowsy driver alert systems. This technology may extend safe driving ability for the elderly for years.

“The classes will be free and will be aimed at the senior citizens,” he said.

However, it will not be limited to that age group. Younger drivers may find some of the information useful as well.

Downs is excited about this program and knows that it will be helpful to all drivers. He is very positive about it being offered in Crescenta Valley and Los Angeles County areas.

He is continuing to look for other venues in which to present the program. Anyone interested can contact Downs by emailing Phildowns75@icloud.com.