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Tune up your skill behind the wheel

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As Janice Lukes sees it, "there’s always this discussion that pedestrians and cyclists should be more respectful to drivers, and vice versa."


In fact, continues the 52 year-old Fort Richmond resident and community organizer, there’s a need to better educate both.


That’s why Bike, Rock & Roll, an initiative that aims to increase awareness and adoption of active transportation opportunities and safety in Fort Richmond for which Lukes is a co-ordinator, invited CAA Manitoba to begin offering Mature Driver Workshops in its neck of the woods.


Which is exactly what CAA did, starting this past October. The free workshops review traffic laws and safety rules "and instruct driving techniques to address the physical effects that come with age," according to a CAA information sheet.


The ongoing workshops are intended, Lukes says, for all those who got their licence years ago and could use a reorientation.


"It’s a very new initiative for CAA," says Liz Peters, public and government affairs manager at CAA Manitoba, which is offering the refreshers in lieu of any form of mandatory retesting.


The fifth and most recent such workshop took place Feb. 28 at the Richmond Kings Community Club in Fort Richmond. Another two to be held on April 17, one at 10 a.m. at the Fort Garry Evangelical Mennonite Church, the other at 2 p.m. at the CAA service centre at 870 Empress St.


Funded by Manitoba Public Insurance, CAA engages road-training organization Safety Services Manitoba to do the actual presentations, which among other topics discusses new cycling signs.


"There are a lot more pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair occupants on the road now," Lukes continues. "There are new rules of the road."


There’s been a receptive response from the outset: the inaugural October workshop had almost twice as many people registered as there was available capacity, and the numbers have been increasing.


For the Feb. 28 workshop, for instance, the room was filled even after Peters had 30 registrants move to the April 17 date.


While emails have been sent to CAA members and advertising done on the Activetransportation.ca site for Fort Richmond (not to mention Facebook and Twitter, in keeping with the keep-up-to-date theme), word-of-mouth seems to have been a powerful force in getting people out, Peters observes.


That being said, it remains a "drop in the bucket," she notes. "The worst drivers, sadly, won’t be there.


"But it still makes a huge difference."


Lukes herself took a mature driver workshop just this past November Another past participant is 58 year-old retiree and Tuxedo resident Susan Rusk, who went with a friend in 2012 and "had a good refresher."


"We just get in our cars and drive. But people lose track of good driving habits. There was a lot I’d forgotten," Rusk said.


Nor are the review sessions simply for older drivers: though only in her 30s, Peters been through the course four times herself.


"We want people to drive as safely as possible for as long as possible," she says. "We’re thus serving all drivers in that regard."


For Lukes, it’s all about how to improve safety and connectivity for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users.


"Needing to keep up is a good thing," she says.

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