My wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, looked up from her desk and announced that it was time for us to take another AARP Smart Driver course. We’d get a discount on our car insurance if we did, so we did.

An update didn’t hurt because elderly people have trouble with the newer vehicles that resemble space rockets. I once rented a small new car in North Carolina. When I started out I floored it, like I habitually did my Nissan truck with 300,000 miles on it, and I almost went off the road. I just caressed the brakes like I would in my truck, and it stopped.

The new cars have built-in features that I didn’t know existed. Some of the expensive models have what is called an advanced collision warning system. You can only imagine that if you leave the road, a little voice says, “You are about to crash. Either tighten your safety belt or jump out now.”

When you read an instruction book in a class, remember that you are not a mindless computer. Common sense might override the printed word. Although it says that children younger than 13 should ride in the back in a child safety seat, you know that some of your little grandchildren are 2 inches taller than you are.

And then we read of the infamous “complete stop.” The complete stop has annoyed me ever since I taught driver education almost 50 years ago. One would think that if you are not moving, you would be stopped. When you told the officer who pulled you over that you had made a moving stop, did he record that alternative fact on his little tablet?

We all have a different opinion on how much space we must leave between our car and the one ahead of us while on two or three lanes. Leave a 300-foot space ahead of you at 70 mph, and some fool kid will pull in there and put you on his bumper. And what do you do when you are in three lanes that suddenly go from 70 to 78 mph, and then slow down again in five or 10 miles? Hold your ground or go with the flow? There are no answers in the book to some practical questions.

Here’s a rule right out of the book: “When the vehicle ahead of you begins to move, count two seconds before you proceed to the stop sign.” And when you stop, some fool will still run into your back end.

Because I stop at stop signs, I’ve been struck in the rear end numerous times. One of my more recent collisions was handled by the officer in a most efficient manner. The man who struck me when I stopped had obviously been drinking, so he said nothing and stood off by himself. The officer said nothing, because if he had given the offender a Breathalyzer test, he would have been up half the night doing the paperwork.

Two of the most important driving tips I ever got were not brought up in this class. It was over 50 years ago that I heard Carl Snow say, “Never back up an inch more than you have to.” I’ve forgotten the other one.

We have heard of people who follow white lines in the fog, but one man said that if it weren’t for the rumble strips keeping him awake, he’d never be able to drive to Florida without stopping. Cruise control enables one to maintain the same speed and not slow down if you get drowsy and inattentive.

I hesitate to discuss the driving habits of others because all too soon the same thing could easily happen to me. But – a few years ago, an elderly gentleman who was parked next to the Thomaston post office managed to get his car in the wrong gear. He shot ahead 3 feet, and when someone came to help him, they say he still had his foot on the gas and both back tires were smoking.

So how do you encourage this man to quit driving? Do you show him a video of his last accident, or do you broach the topic gradually over a period of several weeks?

Here’s a tip that may save your life. What do you do if the gates by the track are not down and a train is coming? Don’t get in front of it.

Because this class was designed for elderly people, the humor in the learning materials was slanted accordingly. In one video an old geezer said that his wife had a GPS, but he didn’t need one because he was a man.

Taking a Smart Driver course has caused me to be even more cautious than I usually am. I don’t want to read in this paper that “The humble Farmer flips car after writing column on Smart Driving.”

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/ MainePrivateRadio.html