Codgers in Cars

Apr 23, 2012 1 Comment by


Reams of coverage in the past day or two for SiDE (Social Inclusion Through Digital Economy) and the work being undertaken at Newcastle University.




The basics:

“Poor health, disability, family breakdown, poverty and unemployment are just some of the reasons why people of all ages may become marginalised from society. SiDE aims to tackle social exclusion by making it easier for people to access the life-changing benefits offered by digital technologies.”

The SiDE website is here.  Not sure why it’s a small ‘i’ but it is.

The particular initiative that’s caught the eye of news editors is ‘granny-nav’ – a sat-nav that takes the least demanding route and avoids tricky manoeuvres such as turning right.

There are plenty of nervous drivers out there.  Age is no barrier to being ditheringly hesitant. Equally there are plenty of self-righteous mummies who tear up suburban streets with their cargo of mewling brats utterly oblivious to the world outside their tinted windows; who’d scream blue murder if anyone endangered precious Jemima, Hugo, Persephone and Felix but who’d equally mow down anyone or anything in their path without a blink and then blame someone else.  Let’s have a guidance system for them: twat-nav.

But we digress.

TF has a vested interest in the SiDE research because TF senior has had his driving licence revoked.  He’s 80 and perfectly physically capable.  He is, however, getting more than a bit forgetful and because this has been confirmed by a clinician who subsequently informed the DVLA his string-backed gloves are now mouldering in a drawer.

The worst accident TF senior had in recent years occurred in his garage when, forgetting the tail-gate was still open, he reversed in.  The subsequent damage was so severe (ie not severe at all) the car (a 2001 Mazda 323) was a write-off.  On the road he’s fine. He certainly has no lack of confidence and is fully able to turn right.

While keeping old duffers driving as long as safely possible is a noble cause, TF reckons not having the mental chops to make a right turn suggests that maybe it’s time that free bus pass came into its own.

On the one hand it could be argued that not having the option to drive a car constitutes social exclusion but having driven a community bus out in the sticks we’d say the opposite.  The gaggle of biddies that caught the bus had a rare old time nattering away during the journey. For some, having to use the bus was a way out of social isolation.  A fair few of them had cars but chose not to use them.

Viable transport solutions for codgers living in rural Britain are usually thin on the ground partly, one suspects, because there’s no profit in it.  And while there’s no profit in keeping drivers on the road beyond their natural competence either, there could easily be a cost  in terms of accidents and increases in insurance premiums.  So while TF applauds the sentiment behind increasing social inclusion for older people, whizzy digital technology might not represent the best way of achieving it.