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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: "Protective New Dad," who is reluctant to allow his grandmother to drive his baby around town, should ask Grandma to enroll in the special AARP Driver Safety Course designed especially for senior citizens.

Drivers learn defensive-driving techniques and find out how to adjust their driving to compensate for normal age-related changes in vision, hearing and reaction time.

In California, drivers older than 55 who complete the course get a certificate issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. It makes them eligible for a reduction in their auto insurance rates. (In other states with similar laws, the age varies.)

To learn more about the course, including when and where classes will be held in any area, your readers can visit AARP's Web site at www.AARP.org/drive or call the toll-free number: 1-888-227-7669 (1-888-AARP-NOW). -- DOROTHY SEDLEY, AARP VOLUNTEER INSTRUCTOR

DEAR DOROTHY: As our population ages, a course such as the one offered by AARP becomes an important safety measure for the road. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: If "Protective New Dad" has any doubts about his grandmother's driving skills, I urge him to stand firm and not allow his daughter in her great-grandmother's car no matter what.

When I was a young teen, my mother -- tired of being a "taxi service" -- hired a neighborhood girl, "Maggie," to drive me to band practice. Mother knew Maggie had already totaled two cars, but didn't want to hurt her feelings by telling her she wasn't a good driver. Mother ignored my protests and so off I went -- scared to death.

Instead of driving me straight to band practice, Maggie drove all over town, picking up her friends and leering at boys. We had countless near-misses. By the time I returned home, I was shaking like a leaf and had wet my pants in sheer terror. I quit the band the next day.

Abby, that was 25 years ago. I never got over the fact that my mother chose the feelings of another girl over the safety of her own daughter. Maggie went on to crack up another car, seriously injuring her passenger -- who could have been me!

I urge all parents to choose carefully who drives their child. If someone's feelings get hurt -- tough! He or she will get over it, but the loss of a child is irreversible. You better believe my own daughter's safety comes first. -- SAVED MYSELF IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR SAVED MYSELF: And so it should. Your mother's judgment left much to be desired. Today it would be called child endangerment. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Protective New Dad" should have been more strongly worded. If he's uncomfortable about Grandma's driving, it's not just his own child he should worry about -- it's everyone else's, too. That's the approach I took with both my mother and grandmother when it became obvious their reflexes weren't what they once were.

First, I persuaded them to admit they were "a bit slower." Then I said: "You love children, and there are lots of them in this neighborhood. Could you ever forgive yourself if a child darted into the street, and there was a tragedy because you couldn't slam on the brakes fast enough?"

They each handed over their car keys. It wasn't fun for any of us, but it may have saved lives. -- I GOT THE KEYS IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR I GOT THE KEYS: That's strong medicine, and I commend you for taking the initiative to ensure the safety of others.

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