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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
94-year-old peer passes driving test
A driving school car
Lord Renton wanted to brush up on his driving skills
For many young people, passing their driving test is a rite of passage, like celebrating an 18th or 21st birthday or voting for the first time.

But for Lord Renton, the House of Lords oldest peer, the pleasure of tearing up his 'L-plates' came rather later in life - much, much later.

At 94-years-old, Lord Renton has become one of the oldest people in Britain to pass the driving test for the first time.

The DVLA agreed that not everyone my age is still as dexterous as I am
Lord Renton
The DVLA says they cannot remember an older candidate - only four men over 70 passed their test in 2002, even though 24 applied, and there are no official figures for nonagenarians.

When Lord Renton was a young man, driving licences were not a legal requirement until March 1934. They were not introduced formally until a year later, together with L-plates and provisional licences.

Small prang

"I'd been driving for years by then," said Lord Renton, who celebrates his 95th birthday in a few weeks time.

The decision to finally bite the bullet and take a test came last month after he had what he describes as "a minor altercation with a wing mirror" as he travelled along the Embankment in London.

I would have been desperate without my car - it is such a wonderful invention
Lord Renton

A police officer suggested to him that an eye-test and a driving test might be in order.

Lord Renton, the Father of the House of Lords, said: "I took it merely because I am rather aged now and thought it would be a good idea to brush up on my skills.

"The DVLA agreed that not everyone my age is still as dexterous as I am," he told the Daily Telegraph.

Busier roads

Lord Renton, president of the Association of Conservative Peers, said while his examiner was very courteous, he was rather concerned when he was asked to take the test in a new Ford saloon.

"They asked me a number of questions and to scribble something down, then they told me to step into the car and we went for a whiz round.

"I usually drive a rather older Vauxhall Corsa Elegance and, before the war, it was a Humber. But there weren't so many cars on the road then."

There is probably a great battery of people who would like to see the elderly off the roads, but he is a biological freak - and it's one up for old people
Caroline Stanley
Lord Renton's daughter

Lord Renton, the former MP for Huntingdonshire and a Tory ex-minister, continues the weekly commute between London and his old constituency.

He is still involved in county cricket and the charity Mencap, although he has recently given up being patron of the Huntingdon Conservative Association.

"I would have been desperate without my car - it is such a wonderful invention," he said.

Caroline Stanley, one of the peer's three daughters, said she was proud of her father's success.

"There is probably a great battery of people who would like to see the elderly off the roads, but he is a biological freak - and it's one up for old people," she said.

"When we suggested he practise for the test, he said: 'Don't be stupid'. But he did say the written test was rather rigorous."

Fitness

Ms Stanley admitted that while her father had had "the occasional prang", he had always been a good driver.

The Driving Standards Agency says elderly drivers are more determined than ever to stay on the roads.

A campaign to advise OAPs on techniques has just been launched.

Drivers over 70 are expected to renew their licence every three years and include a declaration on their fitness.




SEE ALSO:
Tory plan to outlaw drug-driving
02 Sep 02  |  Politics
Anti-depressant 'driving hazard'
22 Jun 99  |  Health
Drug-drive tests to be compulsory
30 Dec 01  |  UK News
Drug-driving cases soar
15 Jun 01  |  UK News


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