Should seniors like Prince Philip be driving at 97?

Maybe Prince Philip had a great picture of him driving in 2009 and he hadn't managed to click one this year to participate in the #10YearChallenge.

By Nivriti Butalia (Meanderings)

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Sun 20 Jan 2019, 8:47 PM

Last updated: Sun 20 Jan 2019, 10:48 PM

There's a meme floating around on the web of UK Prime Minister Theresa May curtseying the queen. The speech bubble over the queen's head says, "Well, you've really messed everything up dear, shall I get Philip to drive you home?"
Since this past Saturday, Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, 97, has been in the news.
He rammed his Land Rover on a country road in Norfolk, UK, and while he got away unscathed, Emma Fairweather, in the other car, broke her wrist, and she's annoyed that Philip hasn't said sorry.
The BBC reported that she hadn't heard from the royals yet, but received a call from a police family liaison officer. "The message he passed on didn't even make sense. He said, 'The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh would like to be remembered to you,'" she said. "That's not an apology or even a well-wish."
News of the Duke kept coming in over the weekend. Being a never-say-die type, he was back at the wheel in a day. Maybe he had a great picture of him driving in 2009 and he hadn't managed to click one this year for the #10YearChallenge. Or maybe he just didn't like the idea of giving up an activity that has presumably given him an escape all his life. The day after he banged his car (it landed on its side), he got himself a new one. Royal privileges mean he didn't have to wait in line for weeks like the rest of us commoners.
In the UK, after you hit 70, you have to reapply for your licence every three years.
The renewal form is sent to the citizens automatically by the Driver Vehicle Licence Agency (DVLA) 90 days before their 70th birthday. There's no upper limit.
Soon enough, editorials were being written about the safety hazard of driving in one's old age. When should seniors, royalty or not, stop endangering lives? When do you snatch the keys from ageing parents, download an app on their phones and teach them how to call a cab? The thought of Prince Philip calling an Uber would go viral online. Imagine those memes.
I thought of my grandfather. He's 97, fading, and used to love to drive. His caregivers are his children; by turn, my mother and my aunt. Neither has let him into the driver's seat for the last nine years, maybe longer. No highways, no main roads. He only took the car around the block. And after the one time he couldn't remember the way home from a familiar, half-a-kilometre-from-home landmark, the car keys were handed over for good. It must have been hard for a man who enjoyed wearing his driving gloves (to prevent sunburn on his hands) and a hat, steering his big truck-like cars, Tata Sumo was one, all the way from Uttar Pradesh to Tamil Nadu and back, over a couple of months, stopping in towns and cities to spend a couple of days with friends and relatives all across, making it a cross country road trip - every year, for decades. This is what they did, my grandparents. They got in a car with their big food basket and thermos of tea and drove off. (My grandmother stopped driving much earlier).
One time, in his mid-80s, driving in Delhi at a painful but cautious speed of like 30kmph, a motorist yelled at him to get the hell off the road. He called him buddhe(old guy). The family was upset. How can people be so rude? But apart from the motorist's choice of words, and I'd like to sock him for disrespect, he had a point. Old people shouldn't be on the roads. Some argue it's not that simple; old people are more responsible than some youngsters at the wheel. It depends, as they say, from case to case.
In Prince Philip's case, the police had to have a little chat with him for not wearing his seatbelt. And this was after the accident. You'd think a lesson had been learnt.

More news from