My Gran burnt her clutch out 3 times in under 7000 miles whilst my Grandad was still driving to Spain in his 80s. My father who is in his 70s is an excellent driver as is my Step mum, so just what is the situation with driving when you are over 70?
Our good friends at Age UK have written a thorough and in depth piece on this issue https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/travel-hobbies/driving/ which really ought to be read, but I wanted to find out just how driving has changed over the last 50+ years
“Have a drink, have a drive” was a lyric in the song “In the summertime” by Mungo Jerry, clearly this not the case at all nowadays. As a child I remember being in the back of my Grandad’s car after he had been to the pub, I seem to recall being left in the car with a packet of crisps and a lemonade whilst the grown ups were inside swigging it back! If stopped the officer would ask the driver to walk in a straight line! Seat belts were not obligatory and filling the car like a game of sardines was also the norm often with someone sat in the footwell of the front passenger seat.
Fast forward to 2021 and we have “Smart Motorways”, electric cars, congestion charges, no pollution zones, cycle lanes, electric scooters, electric bikes, HGVs the size of semi-detached houses, red routes, speed cameras, traffic enforcement officers, cameras on yellow boxes, bus lanes, sat-nav’s and many, many more cars.
In a none too scientific poll I asked a variety of elder people just how much driving had changed, and the most common answer was the sheer volume of traffic. Many of these experienced road users said that the vast weight of traffic made them feel intimidated, especially as people tailgated them or beeped their horns in apparent frustration because it had taken them over 3 seconds to pull away!
The satellite Navigation System, though pretty new, was also a particular bugbear especially with the complexity of “making bloody thing work” (anon). Whilst my daughters seem to have been born with a pre-programmed ability to interface with technology, for the generations above me it is a challenge just to turn it on. For some reason, the Sat-nav of one of the people I spoke to speaks to him in Turkish and there seems to be no way of stopping this. My Father-in-Law was trying to set the radio so he could listen to the cricket and ended up recoding the tyre pressure whilst my aunt wanted to listen to CDs and spent the best part of ½ an hour looking for the slot only to find that it did not exist! And they call these “Smart systems”!
Another fine gentleman I spoke to had always dabbled in mechanics; from tractors through to motorbikes but now felt that he needed a degree in computer science just to open the bonnet. Its not only the frustration of not being able to muck about with motors that annoys him, but it is also the excessive cost of taking the car to the garage as well. Like me he hopes the Act going through Parliament that means things should be repairable makes this easier, although he is not holding his breath https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56340077
The other issue that was highlighted again and again was the extraordinary amount of signage and street furniture that proliferates our roadsides. Be in this lane, watch out for ducks, variable speed limits (we’re all stationary!), do this, don’t do that, and no you can’t turn right where the aforementioned Turkish speaking SatNav has told you to! The consensus was that although this was all well intentioned it just added to the noise and complexity that bombarded their senses.
Oh, and one final thing, potholes! All these developments in technology, information, design and comfort, but no one has got round to filling these “bloody great craters in the middle of the road”!
For more information, please visit