Los­ing driv­ing li­cence can feel like loss of free­dom at any age

Gloucestershire Echo - - WEST WOMEN - Martin Surl Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sioner for Glouces­ter­shire

WHEN the Duke of Ed­in­burgh sur­ren­dered his driv­ing li­cence to po­lice last week fol­low­ing the crash out­side the Royal Fam­ily’s San­dring­ham es­tate in which two women were in­jured, there was a pre­dictably cyn­i­cal re­ac­tion in some quar­ters.

But I doubt it was an easy de­ci­sion for him to make.

I still re­mem­ber the day I passed my driv­ing test – that lib­er­at­ing feel­ing of free­dom and in­de­pen­dence, swap­ping L plates for that pass­port to the open road which meant the shack­les were off.

If you ex­pe­ri­enced that, imag­ine the re­verse.

I have never met the Duke of Ed­in­burgh but books and doc­u­men­taries sug­gest a fiercely proud man who, through pub­lic duty and self­less sup­port of his wife, has had to sur­ren­der more in­de­pen­dence than most red­blooded men of his gen­er­a­tion could have ac­cepted.

And now, per­haps his one last ves­tige of per­sonal free­dom has gone.

Those who see it as a jus­ti­fi­able out­come should con­sider that the el­derly are not tod­dlers to be stood in a cor­ner or have their toys con­fis­cated.

And while the Prince will al­ways have a chauf­feur, it is a huge thing for an older per­son to lose the use of a car.

For many old peo­ple who are iso­lated their car is a ne­ces­sity.

With­out it, pub­lic trans­port can be in­fre­quent, un­re­li­able or just too far away and a taxi too ex­pen­sive.

It’s why my polic­ing plan sup­ports safer driv­ing cour­ses for the el­derly as well as the young.

The Prince is 97 and ac­cord­ing to the DVLA, the num­ber of peo­ple aged over 90 still hold­ing a driv­ing li­cence in Bri­tain has topped 100,000 for the first time.

If you are over 70 and still have your li­cence you are one out of more than 4.5 mil­lion.

Do they all en­joy driv­ing or is it some­thing more vis­ceral?

Los­ing your li­cence can have a de­mor­al­is­ing ef­fect on an older per­son.

I knew some­one who stopped driv­ing on med­i­cal grounds but kept his car in the garage be­cause giv­ing it up to would have seemed like throw­ing in the towel on life it­self.

So spare a thought for the Duke. Yes, he can drive around the es­tate but to an Al­pha male like him, that’s a bit like cy­cling with sta­bilis­ers – not much point and no fun.

It is a huge thing for an older per­son to lose the use of a car

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