“There should only be one click.”
William “Bill” Ronan, an AARP driver safety instructor, said this to local seniors as he had them test their reaction times by dropping pens.
After the count of three, the classmates dropped their pens, but heard several different clicks.
Then, Ronan dropped a dollar bill into the hands of one of the class’s attendees to see how fast he could catch it.
“Teens can usually grab at the halfway point of a dollar whereas we’re about one-tenth of a second behind, but that time makes all the difference,” Ronan said.
“Everyone’s reaction time is different so give yourself extra time,” Ronan said.
As people age, their eyesight and hearing naturally deteriorate, which ultimately affects their driving ability.
It doesn’t mean they have to stop driving.
There are several adjustments that aging drivers can make to keep them safe on the road.
Local senior citizens learned about this topic and others during an AARP driver safety class held March 28 at Peace Lutheran Church in Washington.
Nearly 20 people attended the class designed to bring seniors “up to speed” on the rules of the road and “steer them in the right direction” to keep them safe while driving.
After the age of 40, many drivers lose the ability to focus up close and have more difficulty in judging the speeds of oncoming vehicles.
Eyes in older adults also normally allow in half of the amount of light as younger eyes do.
Some suggestions for drivers with eyesight problems are to travel well-lighted routes, reduce driving at night or dusk and allow more time when turning left.
People who have trouble with their peripheral vision should avoid parallel parking or parking on two-way streets.
Additionally, drivers should check their mirrors often and know how to adjust them properly. Some mirrors have a smaller mirror within them to help drivers better see vehicles in their blind spots.
When driving, motorists need to be alert for various noises, such as horns, sirens, the sounds of their engine and vehicles in their blind spots.
Ronan said high-pitch noises are usually the first type of sounds that people lose the ability to hear as they get older.
Aging drivers should minimize the amount of conversation in their vehicles and check their dashboard for lights that indicate their blinkers or lights are on or possible signs of car trouble.
Motorists also should be cautious at intersections and railroad crossings and keep their radio or music turned down.
Ronan noted that some Missouri veterans are eligible for free hearing aids.
“You should visit your doctor at least once a year to test your vision and hearing,” Ronan said.
He also reminded seniors to check their medications as sometimes they can affect a person’s reaction time.
Attendees also watched a video that noted as people age, it takes them longer to recover from crashes.
Most crashes involving older adults were usually due to failing to yield properly in right of ways, making improper left-hand turns, changing lanes and being distracted.
‘Always Something to Learn’
“There’s always something you can learn in this class,” said Washington resident Claudette White, a coordinator with the driver safety program, who attended the class.
“You always come away with something new because the rules and regulations change,” she said.
“I’ve talked to some of the people who have taken the class and asked what they thought and one of the topics that gets brought up is how to take the keys away from somebody. That’s a very sensitive issue,” White said.
White said one way is to ask a local police department and sometimes an officer can drive with the senior and give the driver an opinion on whether they are capable of continuing to drive or not.
Another participant asked about what drivers should do when trying to stop or pull over to allow emergency vehicles to pass on narrow two-lane roads with no shoulders.
Ronan said motorists should drive to the nearest driveway or stay to the far as right as possible to allow the emergency vehicle to pass.
White said besides what participants can learn in the driver safety class, another benefit is that they may qualify for discounts on their auto insurance.
“Several of the insurance companies now will give you a reduction in your car insurance rates,” White said, if they take the class.
Participants are required to take the class every three years to continue to get the rate decrease usually, White said.
The next AARP driver safety class to be held in this area is scheduled for Thursday, May 10, at Scenic Regional Library in Union from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Judy Gates will be the instructor. People may call 636-388-3873 to register.
There is a fee to attend the classes, but AARP members receive a discounted price.
White said she hopes to hold more driver safety classes, possibly twice a year, in the Washington area.
Drivers also can take the course online through the AARP website.
The driver safety program is supported by a grant from Toyota to the AARP Foundation.
For more information about the AARP driver safety program, people may call 1-888-227-7669 or visit www.aarp.org/drive.