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Firm hits road for senior clients

Agency from Butler will add course in Schuylkill County, mulls service farther north.

A western Pennsylvania company that offers safe driving classes for senior citizens is expanding operations to eastern Pennsylvania and is seeking instructors and host/sponsors.

Leo R. Parisi, owner and chief operating officer of Butler-based Seniors For Safe Driving, said he recently hired 10 retired state troopers as instructors for the classes in eight eastern counties, including nearby Schuylkill County, and he has been talking with one from Lackawanna County. But he’s hoping to add a few more to his staff in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The classes, which cost $15, explore topics such as understanding risks, anti-lock brake systems, compensating for visual acuity changes, knowing when to stop driving, improving night vision and safety and even road rage-related problems.

The classes are popular with seniors because state law mandates that drivers 55 and older who take them receive a 5-percent discount on their auto insurance for three years, Parisi said.

A refresher class can be taken every three years, so discounts can continue. “I’ve had people taking this class five or six times,” he said.

“It’s a very non-threatening presentation. There is no testing. All you have to do is attend. We encourage class participation, but it isn’t necessary. Some seniors feel intimidated, and we understand that,” Parisi said.

Parisi said a law enforcement background isn’t necessary for becoming an instructor; he employs people from a wide variety of backgrounds, including a retired doctor, banker and teachers. But all of his instructors have college degrees, he said.

Parisi said instructors must become state-certified, which means traveling to Butler to complete a certification course during a four-day period. The course itself is free, he said.

In addition to instructors, Parisi said, he is also seeking businesses or agencies to serve as host locations for the senior safety classes. He said popular venues in western Pennsylvania have been senior citizen centers, hospitals, banks, auto dealerships, churches, civic organizations, investment firms and assisted living facilities.

Sponsors typically provide seating for 35 to 50 people. Parisi said the sponsor also must provide a reasonable-size TV and VCR, and that most provide snacks.

Parisi, 70, said he decided to expand his company eastward because it’s in his nature to grow a business. “I’ve been that way all my life. I owned five restaurants over 30 years. I sold them all at age 55. After three months, my wife said, ‘Find something to do because you’re making me crazy.’ So I decided to use my degree,” Parisi said.

Parisi earned a master’s degree in highway safety administration decades ago, but after teaching four or five years, he pursued a more lucrative career as a restaurant entrepreneur. Now, in his retirement, he’s seen his new business grow from 700 students the first year to 18,000 students in 2008, he said.

Parisi became a certified instructor and teaches one or two classes a month, he said.

LEARN MORE

To learn more about becoming an instructor or host sponsor and about the Seniors For Safe Driving classes, call 1-800-559-4880 or visit www.seniorsforsafedriving.com.

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