Is it time to give up driving Miss Daisy?

Dominic Thomas
July 2023  •  8 min read

Is it time to give up driving Miss Daisy?

Amongst the showers that interrupted the tennis, I spotted a piece on the BBC news site. The clickbait that caught my eye “People should plan retirement from driving”. The article is about families challenging the older generation with a question about their ability to drive. Pause on that for a moment. I once heard a joke that basically said that the two things you cannot criticize anyone for are their sexual prowess and their driving. In fact, the offence to challenge either appears almost equally and deeply hurtful.

The latest attempt by the regulator to ensure the right things are being done, (without being too obviously a new lick of paint such as FSA to FCA) is called “Consumer Duty”. A large element of this is about vulnerability. In short, are you more likely to misunderstand advice or be “taken advantage of” because you are either temporarily or permanently “vulnerable”. The term is of course open to interpretation, the intention though is very well meaning.

However, such discussions are rarely easy. Imagine being told that you are no longer fit to drive. So many of us cherish our independence, which is what our ability to drive represents. Indeed if you live in a rural area, your car may be your practical connection to wider society. Yet getting this wrong (which likely means a serious accident happened) will have devastating impact. There is a huge risk of causing offence, appearing patronising or controlling, yet this is “for your own good”.

So how will you know when it is time?

I have been struck by the wisdom of several of our older clients. Two incidents stand out. The first had the foresight to not simply visit local care homes, but she booked herself in for a week or so to see what the level of care was like. She wasn’t impressed and made other arrangements. The second possesses a grasp of self-awareness and a wisdom that I hope I achieve. He knew that at some point he wouldn’t know what he didn’t know. If that sounds a little Donald Rumsfeld, its intended. In short, he wanted me to take over the reigns so that his affairs remain in top notch condition.

Most of us are reluctant to become reliant on others. We generally place very high value on our own ability to make our own choices, we also have a tendency for overconfidence in our own abilities. Ask a room of people to raise their hand if they consider themselves a “better than average driver” the majority will raise their hand, which of course statistically doesn’t hold with logic. The majority cannot be above average.

So in our planning for you, we will increasingly be faced with ever more difficult conversations as we all age about how we protect ourselves from ourselves. Our role is to speak truth and consider your future in the context of all we understand. The BBC article is a sobering reminder that we cannot ignore things simply because it may offend.

Currently your driving license expires when you reach age 70. You retain the right to renew. I remember a short film by David Ackerman starring John Cleese called “Taking the Wheel” (2002) which is an amusing take on why his 90-year-old-mother refused to give up driving.