DRIVING is like sex: young people think older people shouldn’t do it, and they have no idea how much better you get at it when you have the benefit of experience.
I was amused to read recently, on an internet forum called Shout Out Swindon, an interesting suggestion for improving road safety, which is to force everybody to re-take their driving test when they reach their 50th birthday, presumably to make sure their mind and their body are still up to it at such an advanced age.
This was the idea of one young lady who clearly failed to understand which age group actually poses the biggest danger on the roads, and understood even less about what happens to people when they pass the big five-0.
It’s true that a few over-50s may not be as agile, either physically and mentally, as younger drivers, but in some cases they are actually fitter than those young enough to be their children or grandchildren.
So there is no earthly reason for re-testing them, simply because they’ve reached an arbitrary age. It might weed out a few who have fallen into bad habits and forgotten the good ones they were taught years ago, but the benefit would be minimal.
And if the idea is that re-taking your test would refresh you with all the knowledge you need to be a good driver, that doesn’t add up, either.
That’s because the people who are most likely to cause not just minor accidents but major ones are actually the ones who haven’t long passed their tests.
Besides, there is independent evidence to show that, if anything, drivers get better as they pass the 50 milestone.
Insurance companies give us cheap premiums when we reach 50 for a reason, and it’s not because they think we deserve a birthday present or some kind of consolation for our receding hairlines. Compared with the kings’ ransoms that young people have to pay to insure themselves every year, the charge they make for insuring us is tiny, which obviously means that we are a comparatively tiny risk.
Another mistake that young people make about the over 50s is thinking we drive more slowly because we are incapable of pushing our feet on the accelerator, and that slow somehow means doddery. On the contrary, it means more careful, more courteous and therefore safer.
Not that driving is just about getting from A to B in one piece. It’s also important to think of the impact that taking away someone’s driving licence might have.
To lots of people, including the elderly, a licence can be a lifeline to the outside world and, even more importantly, a boost to their independence, confidence and self-reliance, and perhaps even their self-esteem.
Ironically, you could even say that carrying on driving keeps some people young.
To be fair, if any young person actually believes that over-50s need to be checked to make sure they are still capable, it’s surely more to do with their perception of age than prejudice.
When you’re young, anybody more than twice your age seems old, and we know from our own experience that reaching the grand old age of 50 is all but unimaginable when you’re a teenager. So how can young people have any perception of what we are or aren’t capable of?
My bones may now ache and creak, I may be so old that I can even remember back to when England won the World Cup, and I may be only a month short of my 53rd birthday, but that doesn’t mean I’m past it.
And I haven’t forgotten how to drive properly, either.