The Prince Flips His Car

Well, Prince Philip finally did something useful. Not long before my father died at 89, he asked the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles if they wouldtest his driving skills to determine whether he should  surrender his license. They refused, saying that that they had neither the funding nor the inclination to do that.

This week, the Duke of Edinburgh, 97 years young as they say, flipped his Land Rover and injured another motorist while driving by himself on a country road. He said the sun was in his eyes, the same excuse famously used by a member of the 1962 Mets after he missed a ground ball. Why the hell is Price Philip still driving? The New York Times article about this foolishness is called After a Crash, Prince Philip, 97, Stokes Debate on Older Drivers.”

What debate? There’s no debate. A 97-year-old man shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car on public roads. Mr. Queen Elizabeth doesn’t even have the excuses/rationalizations/justifications that other elderly drivers use, like autonomy and freedom. The Prince has drivers. He has private roads where he can practice skids and wheelies. The “debate” is similar to the debate over whether judges should stay on the bench until they drop, even as they have entered old age so deeply that the claims that they are as sharp as ever is pure deception. (By the way, have you seen the new Ruth Bader Ginsberg flick?) In the interests of public safety, every driver over some designated age should be required to pass an annual—every six months would be better— road test designed to determine whether their skills have diminished significantly. Responsible drivers over that age or even close to it should also be encouraged to be responsible,  know when it’s time to surrender the keys and do it. (My father, who could still drive as well as ever–he was always a bad driver–told me he was giving up the car a few days before he died.)

Epilogue: Norfolk Police say they have spoken to the Duke of Edinburgh after he was pictured driving without a seat belt, 48 hours after being involved in the crash.

27 thoughts on “The Prince Flips His Car

  1. This reminds me of my late aunt; she was still driving in her 70’s and my mother visited her often. She let her drive one day while visiting her to go to the Salisbury mall and my mother said, “I didn’t think we were going to get back to the house alive”. Shortly after that my aunt was involved in an accident; thankfully, no one was injured. This is when my mother took the steps to have my aunts license revoked. I don’t remember all the details as it was about 30 years ago; but, I do remember it was very difficult for my mother to convince authorities to revoke the license. She was successful after quite an effort.

    Since I don’t comment often, I’ll say this here. I really enjoy your posts and thank you for all the effort that goes into providing great content every day. This is, BTW, my start / home page!

    • I have a late Aunt, as well. Lived to be 95, but her car keys were taken away after she ran a school bus off the road. She said she didn’t see it.

    • We took away my mother-in-law’s keys when she had an accident, she was 82. She was on the leg of a T, waiting to turn out onto the main drag. She decided she didn’t want to wait for the car turning into the street she was on to complete their turn, so she gunned it and tried to get out diagonally, passing in front of them as they came in. She took the other guy’s front bumper off. It was such a spectacularly poor decision that we knew we could no longer let her drive. Having her license taken away legally would take quite a while, we took her keys away at the scene and sold her car. It was a miserable few months after that, she couldn’t forgive us, but we could not have slept at night otherwise.

      • It is possible that she hit the gas instead of the brakes. My experience with elderly drivers suggests that this is a thing.

        Once in a parking lot, I heard a loud BANG and then squealing of tires . I ran to where the tire smoke was still being generated, as an elderly lady in a Mercedes was under the rear end of a pick up truck. She was gripping the steering wheel and her foot was pinning the accelerator to the floorboard. I got her to get off the gas after some effort and reached in to put the car in park.

        She hit the gas instead of the brakes, and froze in shock at hitting the truck (and lifting it off the ground.) In her shocked state, she kept pushing the ‘brakes’ and was burning rubber off her rear tires.

        My grandfather gave up driving when he made a similar mistake. Of course, this was after we were on him after he hit a parked car ON HIS STREET, claiming ‘the sun was in his eyes’ (possible) and ‘that car was never there before’ (the car had four flat tires and had not been moved in months, if not years.)

        • I agree, hitting the gas instead of the brakes happens a lot, we’ve had a few recent accidents where elderly drivers crashed through convenience store windows. MIL told me, though, that the guy turning in was taking too long and she couldn’t wait. She partially left the road and drove kitty-corner over an empty lot to get out before he finished his turn. She also tried to argue with the cops that it was the other driver’s fault. We decided her impulsivity and short fuse, coupled with what struck us as impaired reasoning skills, disqualified her from driving any longer.

  2. Haven’t seen the RBG film. I object to blatant Hollywood propaganda. It’s my understanding that they’ve stuck her in the Lego movie in her own Lego form. Nothing like getting the kiddos when they’re young.

  3. Well, being a descendant of the most successful thieves and murderers in your particular ancient neighborhood has its perks.

    As for me, I think one of the most generally overlooked benefits of the eventual perfection of self-driving vehicles is that it will make it easier for the aging population to give up driving while retaining dignity and independence. Uber drivers may not benefit.

    • I think his driving as shown in that photo is a big, royal middle finger to the folk in the neighborhood. Is he Alzheimered and lost his impulse control or is that just who he is. In either event, not good for business. Charles should have long ago taken away his driving privileges. Shows what a nebish Charles is.

    • I am not an anglophile in any way shape or form, but I have to admit that this makes me sad. Prince of Greece and Denmark, exiled from Greece, promoted to royal consort by Lord Montbatten, he has been a party to some of the most incredible events of the 20th century. It is sad that he has been reduced to a caricature of senile adults. Is it that no one around him cares enough about him to tell he he can’t drive anymore, or is he surrounded only by sycophants?

      Jack, I really respect your father for recognizing and having the courage to admit to his diminishing abilities. My great-grandmother gave up driving outside of town at 75 (she only drove 4 blocks to eat lunch or go to the grocery store) and driving altogether at 80. Her children were retired at that point and could take her places.

    • Sure it’s ethical. And nice. It also would have been ethical to pin him and win. Or for the injured kid to give up. Injuries are part of sports. I’m not sure the wrestler quite gets what his role is, but still, it was compassionate and kind.

  4. My father, who loved to drive, was pretty astonishing when — with macular degeneration — plead to drive ‘just one more time.” This was a man who, at his best, ignored ‘yield’ signs, changed lanes without signalling, and drove as if he really was ‘king of the road.’ My answer was just “and how fun will that last drive be when you kill people in the process?” He didn’t ask again. Then again, he used his (family) drivers, and wasn’t British royalty.

  5. I had to come back and say that I admire your father for asking to be tested. I have known far too many people who’ve clung to their car keys ferociously despite clear evidence they should not be behind the wheel.

  6. I’m a bad person… When someone talks about “the Ruth Bader Ginsberg movie” what pops to mind is “Weekend at Burnie’s.”

      • I see more and more conspiracy theorist claiming she is already dead. It was a mistake to claim she is working from home if she is still in the hospital.

  7. Two things:
    1. We took my mother’s keys after a similar incident to the one mentioned above, when she drove with such dangerously low blood pressure that she wound up in the hospital for several hours (no accident occurred, though, thankfully). She was about 83, I think. Still gives us shit about it occasionally at 89!
    2. Though I am not a baseball fan at all, I do appreciate how many times you manage to work in some kind of baseball comparison, analogy, or metaphor in your posts. That takes commitment, and I admire that.

  8. Now for another story about how your elderly relatives gave up driving.

    My great-grandmother was a quiet soul with a whim of steel. She lost her husband to a lingering illness (expensive after the Great Depression go going) and now virtually penniless, raised 5 children during the 1930’s using sheer force of will and a strong work ethic.

    In her mid eighties, her driving skills were declining. All four corners of her car had multiple paint transfers, the stories of which she never told anyone. No grocery store parking lot light pole was safe! (She even hit my car -parked in her driveway- once. I never suspected it was her until she sent me a check for the insurance deductible.) We still could not get her to give up her keys.

    Then one day, as her daughters and my dad were visiting (she lived with my grandmother) She walked in the door and dropped her keys on the table and announced (without raising her voice: I cannot remember her ever raising her voice) she was done driving. Then she went to her room and sat in her chair as if nothing momentous was happening.

    The only admission she eventually made, after everyone’s continued interest in this sudden reversal in whim, was “I killed the car wash.”

    Further investigation (there was only ONE drive-in car wash in her town) found that she had managed to get sideways and required a wrecker to get her out. To this day no one has figured out how she managed that: the wash was almost the width of her car!

  9. A bit late but … In my province of Ontario we retest drivers regularly once when they turn 80. Physicians can revoke at any time. I have a number of older relatives who have taken the test and it is not a roadside test – it is all cognitive testing. Part of it is about following instructions but is really just regular cognitive testing. My relatives have, so far, aced the tests and we have no qualms about their skills. Thankfully the are responsible and not so self-centered that they would not hang up their keys and rip up their licenses once they felt unable to drive.

    But the stories I have heard from them about their fellow test takers is shocking. When these individuals fail the test, some are incredulous, some angry, some in denial as you expect. Oddly the family members are almost always in relief. None want to be the ones to take the keys away. So, maybe we should start at 75? Dealing with unruly older family has got to be one of the hardest things. It is not easy for a child to stand up to a parent even if it is the correct thing to do.

  10. In my state, officers can submit a request to the state Department of Safety to have any driver (elderly or not) re-tested when there is evidence of diminished ability. During my career I made several such requests, all of them approved, and almost all resulting in a revocation of drivers’ license (a few licenses were suspended pending driver education). You would be hard-pressed to imagine the wrath (from family members) that descends on an officer / agency that gets an elderly relative’s driving privileges revoked. The families are often oblivious to the degree to which their relatives’ abilities have diminished, but many are just upset over the inconvenience it will pose. They would apparently be content for Grandpa to continue to present a menace to highway safety so long as they don’t have to alter their lifestyle to help out Grandpa.

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