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Too old to drive..?

Comment
Jackie Beedie


What on earth was it going to take to knock the fiasco that is Brexit off front pages, and to the top of news in the UK? You can always rely on Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh to help out.

Last week he had a car accident. At 97 years old and, driving himself, he managed to crash into another car and roll his Land Rover. You would think that would be it, time to give up the licence and let the bodyguard do the driving.

However our Phil is made of sterner stuff, straight onto the phone to order up a replacement car, and two days later he is back behind the wheel again. And here’s the rub. Having been saved in the first crash from being thrown around by his seatbelt he has now decided not to wear it at all. Maybe he has had enough and he just wants to go.

It did not take the Internet long to spawn an endless number of jokes and cartoons. Of the ones I can talk about in polite company was a picture of the Duke walking away from an explosion with the caption “Duke of Hazzard” and a photo of Theresa May kneeling in front of the Queen who is telling her “You have made a right mess of Brexit, never mind I’ll get Philip to drive you home”.

It does bring up a point though about elderly drivers. When is it the time for them to stop? Reactions and eyesight diminish with time and there comes a point when driving two tonnes of iron is dangerous not just to themselves but also other road users. In his case it is also pointless, as he has a policeman always with him who is probably a highly skilled tactical driver.

How many other high-profile people have got into trouble driving themselves when they can easily afford to employ someone to drive them around safely. There have been many singers and actors who have been caught driving under the influence when they didn’t need to, and it’s not a macho thing because there are just as many women doing it. If even us poor people can arrange to have a driver to get us to and from functions then why don’t they?

Is it because they have a sense of entitlement? They think they are so famous that even if the police stop them they will get away with it and the only signature wanted will be an autograph. If that is the case then throw the book at them – not an autograph one.

Prince Philip is fortunate that he is still healthy enough to be able to drive. However it does highlight a failing in the system in that it is normally down to the person themselves to decide when they want to give up. For many it is a huge loss of independence which causes them to try and keep it going for a bit more.

“I will just drive a bit slower now”. And so they become dangerous, dawdling along their country lanes forcing other cars to overtake when maybe not so safe. In the UK all they need to do is have an eye test every three years.

After the age of 70 they may well still have adequate vision but their reactions and decision making is lacking. When you are over 70 there should be a more comprehensive test applied every year to ensure you are still safe.

Not that I will need it of course, as I am the best driver on the road.

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