Column: Over 300 miles . . . that is one L of a drive!
There can be no greater advert to make people resit their driving test after a certain age than the story of Valerie Johnson.
The confused 83 year-old gran had set off for her hospital appointment when she was confronted with a set of roadworks. Instead of driving her intended six miles to hospital she missed a turn-off and ended up travelling eight hours north from her home in Worcester. Lost and totally bewildered, the poor old lady eventually stopped outside a couple’s house in Larkhall - 14 miles south of Glasgow - after she ran out of petrol.
Her frantic family had reported her missing after a neighbour noticed she’d not returned home. Fearing she'd been involved in an accident, her daughter Karen called police, who traced her Toyota Aygo on a traffic camera in Preston at 11pm. Karen refused to believe it because her mother hated driving.
But it was Valerie, and she continued north over the border into Scotland. A kindly couple came to her aid and alerted police who informed colleagues in West Mercia. Karen then caught a flight to Scotland to bring her mother home. It’s a cautionary tale, but what I find even more astonishing is the fact an 83 year-old woman can drive for eight hours without needing a wee!
Joking aside, while I feel for Valerie, surely this indicates if she can’t navigate a return from a missed turning then maybe it’s time to hang up her car keys.
An elderly relative once helped us move into our first flat in London. Dorothy, who was in her 70s and utterly fearless, had never passed a driving test. You see, there wasn’t even a test when she'd learned how to drive in the 1920s. No, the driving test wasn't introduced until 15 years later, on June 1 1935.
As one of the first female drivers, Dorothy felt she owned the road. She was so determined that she once drove us the wrong way down a one way street because, and I quote, ‘it never used to be one way’. True, it hadn’t, but that didn’t stop a fleet of London cabbies bawling obscenities at her through open windows as she refused to reverse and instead drove headlong into their path.
Dorothy was a brilliant lady and a real character, but after that day even she admitted defeat. She reluctantly agreed that she was, quite simply, an accident waiting to happen. Thankfully, and at the insistence of her family, she handed over her car keys and never drove again. They say that with age comes wisdom, but when it comes to driving, this isn’t always the case.