7 Jun 2013

105-year-old driver making headlines

7:59 am on 7 June 2013

A 105-year-old Northland man is attracting media attention around the world as the oldest driver in New Zealand.

Bob Edwards of Ngataki, near Kaitaia, has been driving since 1925 but he's only been caught speeding once.

The first car he drove was a French De Dion Bouton which had a lever instead of a steering wheel.

These days he's getting about in a red Mitsubishi and says he remains a confident driver.

"You've got to be on your toes all the time. You can't talk to your wife, you've got to know what you're doing. She says, 'that's a nice looking tree over there', you don't turn to look, you keep looking where you're going."

Mr Edwards has been featured in stories by agencies and media outlets ranging from the Associated Press and BBC to the Belfast Telegraph.

Mr Edwards may be the oldest New Zealander still driving but others are following in his footsteps.

Maureen Woollcombe of Blenheim is 90, and has been driving since she was 17, including as a volunteer driver during World War II in Britain.

She considers herself a good driver but can't say the same for some of her friends. "I don't feel safe - their reactions are slower than mine and it's terrifying. And they don't look where they're going. I'm very fussy who I drive with."

Maureen Woollcombe says driving gives her independence and dreads ever losing her licence."I enjoy driving - I like it," she says.

Clinical psychologist Dr Petra Hoggarth has done research into older drivers and says healthy elderly people drive more sensibly and have fewer crashes than young men.

Dr Hoggarth says the most dangerous drivers are usually men aged between 18 and 25.

The Canterbury District Health Board researcher says older people are more fragile and so are more easily hurt in a car accident.

Transport Agency figures show 13 people aged 100 or older are still licensed to drive.

The agency says drivers 75 or over must pass health and vision checks and get medical clearance before they can renew their licence.