THE founder of a Scottish car dealership has astounded critics of elderly motorists by passing Britain’s most advanced driving test at the age of 95.
Norman Lawrence, a retired businessman who established Lawrence of Kemnay motor dealership in 1953, passed the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ (IAM) test in his 96th year, making him the oldest person to pass the test in Scotland.
Mr Lawrence, who has been driving for more than 70 years, said he signed up with the Gordon branch of the IAM after listening to a radio phone-in programme in which callers demanded that motorists should relinquish their licences when they reached 90.
The sprightly nonagenarian, who still plays golf twice a week, said: “They were discussing a story about a pensioner who had driven up a dual
carriageway the wrong way and were asking when pensioners should be stopped from driving. When they got to 90, folk were saying that was the age when we should be stopped.
“I thought to myself, ‘I can still drive’, but there was no point in asking my neighbours if I was right, so that’s when I decided to join the Institute of Advanced Motorists.”
He passed the strict test with flying colours on 23 April and explained “I had to do a running commentary for the examiner as I was driving along the road.”
Mr Lawrence admitted: “I was a wee bit apprehensive, but it went really well. I have driven for more than 70 years and I still enjoy it. I take four old age pensioners out for their lunch every Saturday and do about 60 or 70 miles every weekend.
“I never sat a driving test, but I did pass a test for driving a motorbike when I was 18.”
A survey this week by the Auto Trader Group showed three in five motorists believe older drivers should be forced to retake the standard test when they reach 66, and be subject to medical tests such as regular sight and co-ordination checks.
But Mr Lawrence, who achieved the coveted IAM qualification in a far shorter time than most candidates, insisted elderly motorists were being mistakenly maligned by younger drivers. “If you see the statistics, it’s all the young ones who have the accidents. The older age drivers take a wee bit more care,” he said.
He admitted, however, that not every OAP behind the wheel was a good driver. “I know that some folk think because they are older they should only drive at about 40mph and they hold up all the traffic,” he said. “But I don’t do that. If it’s a 60mph limit you drive at 60mph if the conditions are good.”
Mr Lawrence, a war veteran who served with the Royal Artillery at the Battle of El Alamein, said: “I’m a better driver now than I was as a young man. You settle down as you get older and you don’t take the same risks. Not that I get in other folks’ road, though.”
Mr Lawrence added: “I have only had the one accident in all my years of driving. It would have been a 50-50 accident and long, long ago.”
Currently there is no upper age limit for drivers in Britain. A UK licence has to be renewed at 70. The number of licence-holders aged over 70 has risen by 72 per cent over the past ten years.