When Lonnie Barnhart's wife, Carol, volunteered him for a competition for older drivers, he was pretty confident.

That is, until he found out about the written and perceptual tests involved.

"Then I started to get all anxious," Barnhart said. "I've not been one to do well on written tests."

But the York Township man went through with the competition, earning $400 total for placing first overall and posting the top score on the driving range.

That's not bad for a 74th birthday present.

The event: Barnhart also helped his team from White Rose Senior Center place first out of five senior centers in the county. The group — including Gregory Ness, 68, and Nelson Leader, 72 — won $500 and a trophy for White Rose.

The first-ever York County Safe Driving Competition for Mature Drivers sent 16 drivers, age 60 and up, to the range and quizzed them on aspects of the road. It was held at the York Expo Center during the 19th annual Prime of Life Festival.

Barnhart, who's been to the festival many times, said it was an enjoyable addition to the event, which features vendors, entertainment and resources for seniors.

"(It) was something new and, of course, entertaining for a lot of people," he said.

Room for improvement: But many of the drivers weren't fond of the perceptual test, which shows participants 10-second slides and asks them circumstantial questions.

Bill Coleman, who placed third overall, used his nerves to earn good scores on the driving range.


"I'm surprised I did well," he said. "'Cause I'm still shaking."

But although Coleman, 68, can catch small details in movies, he said the perceptual test was tough.

"When you're trying to look at everything, you look at too much," the Dover Township resident said.

Coleman said he's never had a ticket or accident in his 52 years of driving. One of the reasons could be that he takes the AARP Smart Driver Course every three years, knocking some dollars off his insurance and brushing him up on the laws.

He said he'd participate in the competition again, if he could — rules say no driver can participate twice.

"It's a good experience I'd recommend to anybody," Coleman said.

'A good start': The contest was organized in part by the county's Center for Traffic Safety, and director Wayne Harper said he was pleased with the inaugural event.

"I thought it was a good first year, a good start," he said.

Harper hopes the event continues to grow and more senior centers decide to participate — only five of 15 were represented this year. For instance, the center had success when it created the first Safe Driving Competition for Youth 23 years ago in York: The contest has since expanded to other counties and created new competitions statewide.

"We are hoping to make this one bigger and better for next year," he said.

— Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.