Don’t jump to con­clu­sions re el­derly driv­ers – the sky’s the limit!

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

Ifound John Wigley’s 24 May let­ter about older driv­ers pro­foundly de­press­ing and, though I cer­tainly ad­mire his de­vo­tion to driv­ing by tak­ing his In­sti­tute of Ad­vanced Mo­torists (IAM) test, I feel that he makes the com­mon er­ror of as­crib­ing el­derly driver risk to slow­ing re­ac­tions and fail­ing health.

By and large, even quite se­verely dis­abled driv­ers can be en­tirely com­pe­tent so long as they are not – in­clud­ing by tired­ness, etc – neu­ro­log­i­cally com­pro­mised. As­sum­ing they aren’t, mod­est slow­ing of re­ac­tions has lit­tle ef­fect – ex­cept, per­haps, un­der the most test­ing cir­cum­stances of rapidly flow­ing traf­fic at junc­tions or sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions.

And even there, one could ar­gue that poor road de­sign has a greater in­flu­ence (See JJ Leem­ing’s Road Ac­ci­dents: Pre­vent or Pun­ish and, most specif­i­cally, its med­i­cal analysis of age and risk). The IAM es­ti­mates that el­derly driv­ers have about half the num­ber of ac­ci­dents one would ex­pect in pro­por­tion to their num­bers – and those un­der 24 years of age, about twice as many. It was not clear how that re­lated to mileage. Age, hope­fully, brings ma­tu­rity, less ag­gres­sion, less im­pul­siv­ity, greater ex­pe­ri­ence (and its corol­lar­ies – bet­ter an­tic­i­pa­tion and judge­ment, and pa­tience) and con­sid­er­a­tion to­wards fel­low driv­ers, ie. not driv­ing at them at full pelt on nar­row roads or tail­gat­ing an old and vul­ner­a­ble clas­sic.

All driv­ers would do well not to jump to the con­clu­sion that, just be­cause a car has chrome bumpers ei­ther it or its owner are slow or mov­ing slowly! The most breath­tak­ing ex­hi­bi­tions of ap­pallingly dan­ger­ous driv­ing that I’ve wit­nessed re­cently have been by driv­ers who are sev­eral decades away from their 70th birth­day…

Sim­ply put, driv­ing is a cog­ni­tive skill and, if cog­ni­tion is not di­lap­i­dated, then I feel that the like­li­hood of a cor­rect de­ci­sion is far more im­por­tant than its ab­so­lute speed of ac­tion, or the age of the driver.

Ex­pe­ri­ence and ma­tu­rity aren’t ev­ery­thing, of course – I think that some sort of re­fresher train­ing for all of us is a very good idea. A life­time of cu­mu­la­tive bad habits – in any ac­tiv­ity – can be very dan­ger­ous and even a short pe­riod of skilled cor­rec­tion will be ex­tremely valu­able. A failed one-off test and its con­se­quences to morale, mo­bil­ity – and in­deed the pos­ses­sion of a li­cence or the in­sur­a­bil­ity of one’s trea­sured clas­sic – is a threat too far. In any event, if one can­not re­spond pos­i­tively and con­struc­tively to in­struc­tion or cor­rec­tion, should one not con­sider hang­ing up one’s driv­ing gloves?

All of this is why I am – to­gether with two friends, one aged 70, the other 75 – learn­ing to fly, which I cer­tainly wouldn’t un­der­take if I thought we were putting oth­ers at risk.

Ge­of­frey Ham­monds, Edg­worth, Lan­cashire

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