by Cori Hilsgen – email@example.com
Drivers 55 and older are learning some new driving skills through classes taught by Ron Stewart, a St. Joseph resident.
Drivers who take the eight-hour course, and renew it with a four-hour refresher course every three years, are eligible for a 10-percent-or-more discount on their auto insurance. The requirements and discounts are mandated by state law.
The classes help older drivers to improve driving skills and learn about recent changes in laws, highway design, technology and other things.
In the class, Stewart also discusses changes in physical health, how it affects your driving skills and different methods of adjusting to the changes.
Stewart said some participants aren’t sure about taking the class when they first start but usually feel they learned something by the time it’s finished. He said with the roundabouts and diamond interchange being built in the area, people enjoy learning new information.
During the class, Stewart talks about ways to combat driving fatigue. He said average drivers are now getting one hour a day less sleep than they did in the 1950s.
Sister Michaela Hedican, OSB, and Dale and Marilyn Haug attended Stewart’s class at Kennedy Community School.
Hedican said the class is required for anyone at the St. Benedict Monastery who drives. She said she learned about new technologies and the future of self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are computer-controlled.
“It helps us to be safe drivers,” Hedican said. “It’s a good refresher and teaches us new technologies and prepares us for the future as well as the present.”
The Haugs took the class to keep up to date on driving skills and to learn new things.
“It reminds us,” Marilyn Haug said. “A lot of laws have changed since we took driver’s training classes.”
No books or tests are required for the class. Participants can follow the outline and take notes through a booklet. A certificate is given at the end of the class.
Stewart is a certified instructor and received his training from the Minnesota Highway Safety Research Center at St. Cloud State University. He has been teaching the class for four years. Stewart said the course can be sponsored by any organization and can be taught through churches, schools, senior centers and other businesses.
Stewart uses humor while stressing the importance of improving driving skills. He uses a multimedia approach to keep a person’s interest. He said the classes are interactive and very informative.
Stewart teaches the course at Kennedy Community School through the community-education program. He also teaches it at the Whitney Senior Center in St. Cloud, as well as places in Sauk Centre and Long Prairie.
St. Joseph usually averages about 15 people in his classes, while the other locations usually average about 30-35 people and fill very quickly.
“We are trying to develop (it in) the St. Joseph area,” he said.
Stewart grew up in Minneapolis. He and his wife, Sandy, originally from Chicago, have four adult sons. Two of their sons are married, and the Stewarts have four granddaughters. Ron and Sandy have been married for 44 years.
Stewart has more than 30 years of pastoral ministry experience. The Stewarts moved to the area 15 years ago when he accepted a position as pastor at the Avon Community Church. He also served as pastor at the Park Side Community Church in St. Joseph.
The family lives in Graceview Estates in St. Joseph.
“How appropriate is that for a retired pastor to live in a community with that name,” Stewart said, smiling.
He also has volunteered in the Emergency Trauma Center at the St. Cloud Hospital for more than four years. Sandy is a paralegal with Quinlivan and Hughes law firm in St. Cloud.
The next class offered at Kennedy will be a four-hour refresher course on March 11 and an eight-hour course for first-time students on March 18 and 19. To register or for information, call 888-234-1294.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.