Running stop signs.
Talking on cell phones.
Driving with one hand.
Hubert Plaster takes down the comments and writes them on the list of What I hate about other drivers.
"When the speed limit is 25 mph and they're going 35 to 40," shouts Dorothy Beisler, 70. "They look at you like you're from Mars."
Betty Sturman, 71, adds: "Or just how there's a general rudeness out there."
"It's really the ones that stay in the fast lane and won't move that drive me crazy," says Laura Neal, 77. "I call them the `left-lane hoggers.' "
So it goes in the two-day course for older drivers who are brushing up on how to navigate roads and highways full of younger motorists.
The lesson from the exercise in complaints: Deal with them.
"Your reactions may get slower, but that just means you have to work harder," says Plaster, 74, the teacher. Of other motorists' annoying habits, he says, "Don't get mad about it because you can't change them. Change you."
Plaster, who is known by his students as "Hurbie," guides them down the highways -- or rather through the workbook pages -- in a program called "Fifty-Five Alive: Mature Driving." For seven years, Plaster and his wife, Mary, have taught the course, designed by the American Association of Retired Persons, and they have attracted quite a following. This year, the Purcellville couple are teaching almost 20 students at a course in Leesburg and 30 in Hamilton in a few weeks. And there's already a waiting list for next year's courses, which cost $8.
At one of his recent classes at the Leesburg Senior Center, Plaster leads the group in drills, tests and jokes. Some of his students are widows who depended on their husbands to do the driving. Other couples want to get a reduction in their car insurance. A handful say they can't remember if they ever even took a driver's education class.
"We don't start from scratch in teaching them how to drive," Plaster said. "If you don't know by now, you might as well give up. We give them a tuneup."
That's just what Neal needs. After hearing about the course from friends, she decided she was due for a refresher to keep driving her 1993 Pontiac Bonneville. "I haven't had a driver's manual since I don't know when," she chuckled.
Plaster is blunt in his advice.
Eyesight is getting bad, don't drive at night, he tells them. Can't keep up with the posted speed limit, get off the road. Get butterflies in your stomach when you have to make a left-hand turn without an arrow light directing you, avoid it. Go right instead.
"I had a cousin who lived in Leesburg her whole life and drove around without ever making a left turn," Plaster tells the class.
A student asks: "Did she die?"
Plaster answers: "Yes, but not in a traffic accident."
Laughter erupts. Plaster rings his gold bell on top of his makeshift cardboard and plywood lectern to regain order. "Quiet now, we've got to be able to hit the road -- safely," he tells his students, as they stifle their giggles.
After taking the class in 1990, Plaster decided he could teach it better. "Let's just say it left a lot to be desired," said Mary Plaster, 74. "It was pretty dull. No fun involved at all."
Armed with a dry sense of humor, Plaster, who is a retired cabinet and pharmaceutical salesman, draws on his experience as a Boy Scout master. His lessons include driver calisthenics to help loosen neck muscles that may be tight from arthritis, and tips on parallel parking and backing up. There are no grades, save a homework assignment to practice the more defensive techniques, such as following at a safe distance. At the end of the two-day course, students earn a certificate.
During coffee breaks, students act like teenagers again, as they recall days gone by when they hot-rodded around their neighborhoods. Today, they laugh at how they circle parking lots for handicap spaces. They tell each other of their latest near-death experience with a speeding teenager cutting them off or how a soccer mom talking on a cell phone almost backed into their car.
They share tips on the best ways to get to the one place they all often go -- the county's hospital. Take Route 7 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. -- not before and not after -- and it's guaranteed smooth sailing.
The biggest distraction for many older drivers when they are behind the wheel isn't talking to other people, mainly because few of their relatives still want to drive with them, but daydreaming, Plaster said.
"Sometimes cars whiz by me and I just wonder where are they all coming from," said Millie Kirkland, 74. "You've got to stay sharp to be out there."
No need to tell Anna Jane Doyle, 80, of Purcellville. The 5-foot-tall grandmother pulls herself into her white 1982 Bronco by holding onto the steering wheel. For extra height, she uses a two-inch-thick cushion.
She likes her sport utility vehicle. "I've got a lot of strength in that thing," she said, as she ate a cheeseburger and green beans with her classmates during a lunch break. "Anybody can bump into me in that thing."
She took her last bite and headed back with her classmates. The next lesson: surviving the freeway.
For more information about the course, call the Leesburg Senior Center at 703-777-0257.
CAPTION: Hubert Plaster, 74, started teaching the course after he took it in 1990 and was convinced he could do better.
CAPTION: Anna Jane Doyle, left, and Betty Sturman share a light moment during the "Fifty-Five Alive: Mature Driving" class.
CAPTION: Marnie Perlik, left; Irene Sullivan, center; and Gloria Kinn are among about 20 people taking the driving course at the Leesburg Senior Center. It will be offered in Hamilton in a few weeks. There's already a waiting list for next year's courses.
CAPTION: The two-day course helps seniors brush up on driving skills. Among one students' materials: a workbook, Virginia Driver's Manual and a collapsible cane.