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I’d rather be driven by someone aged 97 than by an 18-year-old

PUBLISHED: 17:37 22 January 2019

The Duke of Edinburgh, who was involved in a road traffic accident at the edge of the Sandringham Estate, at the wheel of a Land Rover to drive Queen Elizabeth II around her inspection of the jumps at the European Horse Trials in Windsor Great Park back in 1955

The Duke of Edinburgh, who was involved in a road traffic accident at the edge of the Sandringham Estate, at the wheel of a Land Rover to drive Queen Elizabeth II around her inspection of the jumps at the European Horse Trials in Windsor Great Park back in 1955

PA Archive/PA Images

Prince Philip has come under plenty of scrutiny following his car crash at the aged of 97. But James Marston argues that his vast experience behind the wheel must count for something

One car crash and suddenly everyone over 70 is some sort of accident waiting to happen – haven’t things got a little out of hand?

I’ve got quite fed up hearing about how Prince Philip – one of the very people that make Britain great – should stop driving and think about this or that or whatever.

And how old people shouldn’t be on the roads or in charge of machinery or any of the rest of it.

Older people often know best – as far as I am concerned anyway.

And to be absolutely frank, I’d much rather be driven by a 97-year-old than I would an 18-year-old. And as for “well someone could have been killed” we take that risk, all of us, each time we get behind the wheel, walk outside, walk up the stairs, go on an aeroplane, nothing we do is without risk. Of course someone could have been killed, someone could always be killed.

If I had my way the driving test in the first place would be much harder – how come there are so many idiots on the road? How come people are allowed to be so aggressive the moment they get behind the wheel? Why isn’t the sounding of horns in anger - usually because someone is driving slower or with more care than the impatient person sound the horn - as antisocial as drink driving? No one dare ask those questions.

I think there’s been enough rubbish written in recent days about whether older people like Prince Philip should be driving or not, of course they should be driving, if they are fit and able and safe and sensible. Older people know themselves if it’s time to stop getting behind the wheel.

Many older people have been driving years and know in their own minds and, even if they don’t much like it, will know when the time is right to call it a day. Let us trust them, they know best.

Just as we all know best about ourselves.

I imagine it must be frightening to stare in the face a loss of independence, it must be tricky to negotiate old age full stop. No one likes being told what one can and can’t do. But we should have at least some respect for those going through it, not write them off.

It seems to me we often ignore the contribution older people make to our country as it is. We live in a society where youth is feted, yet is it the older generation that volunteer, the older generations that look after grandchildren to help young families get ahead, the older generation that have been through it all and have much wisdom to pass on.

I sometimes wonder if we listened to each other, and to older people in particular we might live in a more tolerant, friendly, compassionate world.

Many of the most inspiring and interesting interviews I have done in all my years as a journalist have always been with older people, the concentration camp survivor who preached peace, the man tortured by the Japanese who struggled but tried to forgive, the forgotten war heroes who risked their lives daily to fight a perverted ideology, the long-married couple who went through the tough times, the 105-year-old who remembered the Titanic going down, the huge raft of volunteers who want to do their bit, the older men and women who don’t want or need to give up work, the elderly ladies who were making the best of it after their husbands had gone….

I have been exposed to some amazing older people who imparted great wisdom and set inspiring examples, showed me great kindness and patience, and gave me a great insight into the world.

We shouldn’t assume we know better than older people, we ignore and dismiss them at our peril.

Should older people decide what’s best for them? Do you like to be told what to do? Is James right. Write to him at james.marston@archant.co.uk

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