27-4. Nonagenarian Notions: Learning to drive at 75?

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I once sent an article “Learning to Drive at 55” to the AARP Magazine on the topic What I Know About Driving. And, my gosh, my article won and was printed, I think it was selected because 55 was pretty old to be doing that and I took a rather novel approach in seeking out driving lessons.

Turns out, however, I was a sweet young thing compared to the learning to drive numbers in Great Britain. My Google Alert for “nonagenarians” brought me an article citation from the United Kingdom with the headline “More 90-year olds take to roads.” And it means “take to”–they’re LEARNING to drive.

The article opens  “Learning to drive is not just for 19-year-olds but nonagenarians too . . .” London, turns out–London with its traffic!–has a thousand 70+ learner-drivers. There’s around  10,000 70+ new learner-drivers in Britain  and 48 of that 10,000 are nonagenarians the oldest being 98!!

Florida, where I live, was until recently, senior citizens heaven when it came to limiting driver’s licenses as people aged. There are so many retirees here that the State legislature didn’t have the guts to limit senior drivers for fear of losing office. The rules have tightened recently but even in Florida the 90s are the decade for giving up driving, not learning to drive. 

That article from Britain makes me wonder–what ARE the statistics for learner’s permits in the U.S.A.–anyone ever know a nonagenarian who took up driving for the first time?

My kind of crazy approach to learning to drive back in 1975 was to take my very first driving lessons in Manhattan’s midtown–right there behind what used to be Altman’s store on the corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. I was convinced to do this by a wonderful TV ad I saw every evening in my home out in the suburbs. I think I did it because I didn’t want to be seen learning to drive by long-time neighbors in that small town where I lived. And I liked taking the train to Manhattan.

I was so clueless I actually thought the lessons would be in some huge building or parking lot–I was astonished to see the car (with two steering wheels) parked right there on the street. First lesson we drove west on traffic-clogged 34th Street, north on 9th or 10th avenue, back east on 42nd street past all the porno shops and theaters that used to be there (pre-Mayor Giuliani) and back down (Lexington I think) to 35th Street.

Only when I got home and considered what I’d done did I recall it all with horror. Took one more lesson and never went back. Learned the old-fashioned way–two friends alternated taking me around the neighborhood until I could pass the driving test–and I made it on 2d attempt.  

I always swore I’d give up driving at 90 only to renege when I reached that age. 




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