Call me old and cranky, but I’m ready to throttle Progressive Corp. and its persistent quest to raise auto insurance premiums for Maine drivers of a certain age.

Why? Because, as I prepare to turn 62 this week, I’m a better driver than I’ve ever been, that’s why.

And because when I turn 65 three years hence, the last thing I’ll be in the mood to do is feed the insurance industry’s need for greed.

More on all of that in a minute. First, a bumpy trip down Memory Lane.

Back when I was 16, less than a month after I’d secured my driver’s license, my buddy Rich and I headed up Route 128 in suburban Boston to play our guitars for a folk-singing group and, more importantly, put the moves on a couple of girl singers who had caught our eye.

Yapping away as we left the highway, I took a turn a tad wide and … Boom! … my mom’s station wagon suddenly lurched up on the right side and came crashing back down before careening across the pavement and off into a grassy median strip.

I sat there, stunned. Rich jumped out.

“Looks OK!” he called out, motioning for me to back up. “No, really! It’s fine! C’mon! You’re OK! Nice and slow, now! Easy… easy …”

That’s when the right front wheel fell off.

So much for the double date.

A couple of months later, I was back behind the same wheel (bless my merciful parents) with six friends crammed inside the car, en route to Rich’s house for an evening of fun and frolic.

Again, I had my guitar. Again, I was hopelessly in love – this time with one of my female passengers, only she didn’t know it yet. And again, trouble lurked around the next corner.

Today we call it black ice. Back then it was just a friction-free stretch of back road-turned-skating rink, with dense woods on either side.

The car slid sideways to the right. Miraculously, I managed to pull it out.

Then it slid to the left. This time, I could only holler for everyone to get down as we plowed through the snowbank and descended into the blackness.

Two mammoth trees suddenly appeared in the headlights – the distance between them about a foot narrower than the AMC Matador wagon.

I steered between them anyway – to this day I can hear the crunching sound. In stereo.

Next came a smaller tree. It was dead ahead of us. And then it wasn’t.

I remember finally coming to a stop, turning off the engine and praying to God that no one was hurt. God answered my prayers.

A police officer arrived, summoned by a nearby homeowner who heard the crash. A surprisingly sympathetic young guy who had trouble even standing upright on the slick roadway, the cop reached for his radio and immediately put in an emergency call for sand.

Then Rich showed up in his mother’s station wagon to ferry my traumatized passengers the few remaining miles to his house. Coming from the other direction, he hit the ice just like I did and nearly took out the police cruiser.

“What’s happening?” Rich exclaimed, wide-eyed, as he bounced out of his car and almost fell into the cop’s arms.

Then, after 20 or 30 agonizingly long minutes, my dad’s Toyota Corona slowly came into view.

He got out and stared at my mom’s station wagon, now being coaxed out of the woods by a tow truck with at least 100 feet of winch cable.

I tried to point out how I’d managed to steer between the two biggest trees, but the look on Dad’s face told me I might as well have been talking to the trees.

Heck, even the young police officer tried to stick up for me.

“Sir,” he told my dad, “the road’s impassable. I just called for some sand. We’ve had a number of accidents here in the last – ”

My dad shot him a glare and held up his hand.

“Thank you, officer,” he said icily. “But I’ll be the judge as to whether my son was driving safely tonight.”

The cop and I looked at each other. “Please,” I implored with my eyes, “take me with you.”

Looking back over all those decades, I know now that my father was both frightened and angry – frightened that I’d come so close to killing myself (or someone else), and angry that, thanks to his 16-year-old Mario Andretti, his insurance rates were about to skyrocket. Again.

I also know that back then, loath as I may have been to admit it, I was one dangerous driver. Not reckless, mind you, but dangerous nonetheless in my lack of experience, my willingness to be distracted, my inability to adjust to the conditions around me.

Not so these days.

These days, I’m constantly on the lookout for, well, younger versions of me. And I see them everywhere – not too long ago, one came flying around a corner toward me on Route 112 completely on my side of the road.

I swerved into what should have been his lane to avoid a head-on collision. Then he looked up at the last second (that’s right, a texter) and instinctively swerved back into his lane, forcing me to swerve back into my lane.

Our side mirrors missed by inches. I pulled over to collect myself. He never even hit his brakes.

These days, when it comes to my driving speed, the only person who complains is my dear wife.

“Um … can’t you go a little faster?” she asks patiently as the cars line up bumper-to-bumper behind us.

“No can do,” I reply with a smile. “I’m already doing 38 and the speed limit is 35. We’re flying!”

I tell you all of this to demonstrate just how regressive Progressive was when it suggested to the Maine Bureau of Insurance last month that Mainers should pay, say, 6 percent more for auto insurance simply because they go from being 64 to 65.

Citing a state law that prohibits such a thing, the bureau nixed that request. But now Progressive plans to be back in August, seeking to gouge those 65 and over who are new customers and thus technically aren’t being subjected to a premium “increase.”

“Auto insurance companies should not be able to penalize seniors simply because they are getting older,” protested state Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, who announced last week that he’ll submit legislation to clarify the existing statute and put the brakes on this insult to our intelligence.

Good for Beck, a young man clearly on the move. He just turned 30, has already served four terms in the House and is running for the Maine Senate.

I wonder if he needs a driver.