Carol Stanton, MASS Regional Co-ordinator for South Central, and Associate Director & Chartered Legal Executive at Bakers Personal Injury Solicitors, compares her early driving experiences to those of new drivers today and looks to what the future may hold!
When I passed my test at 17 in 1977, there was no requirement to wear seat belts, we didn’t have electric windows and I almost certainly didn’t have a radio! My first car was a Mini which had windows you had to slide backwards and forwards to open and close.
Most cars had a “choke” which you needed to pull out in order to start the engine. Young drivers today would think a choke is something you do when food goes down the wrong way but us older generation recall it being a knob you could hang your handbag on – well at least the female generation and until the engine warmed up and then you wondered what that revving noise was under your bonnet when you pulled up at the lights and you then realised you still had the choke out so had to put your handbag somewhere else!
We didn’t have Sat navs to tell us where to turn or when we had arrived. We had to rely on old fashioned things like bulky maps, signposts or stopping pedestrians to ask directions after taking a wrong turn. And then had to be a contortionist to reach across the passenger seat to open the window to talk to that pedestrian – no buttons or electronics in those days. I remember my dad finding his way around country lanes when we went on camping holidays by the position of the sun!
I recall my driving lessons were affordable at £3 per hour and the test itself about £12 but there was no theory test, just the examiner on the big day flipping through a Highway Code folder asking me to identify certain signs and what they meant. We were never shown how to park or allowed on a motorway until after you had passed your test – oh that was a good idea to be thrown into a 3 lane speedway situation just because you had a bit of paper which proved you didn’t knock any pedestrians down the previous day when you took your test! Both my daughters took their Pass Plus before going on a motorway and I would recommend it to all young drivers today. I know it’s all relative and it’s a good thing that the test has tightened up but I bet there are a lot of older drivers out there who wouldn’t pass their test today!
Whilst young drivers today are taught more proficiently and, in my personal view, are much better prepared and trained for the road (apart from a small minority who think they have something to prove by taking a corner at 60mph with a disco going on in the boot – there I go again showing my age – and then wonder why they end up in a ditch on the other side of the road – or worse!) they do have so many distractions like I-pods and phones, sat navs and loud music. There is the sat nav or I-phone which updates if they take a wrong turn and they absolutely have to look at the screen to see where they’ve gone wrong or a text comes through on their phone and it has to be read urgently – why? that text could have taken half an hour to actually come through on the phone – but everything has to be instant these days which is so dangerous as we all know the risks of taking your eyes off the road for even a millisecond. Oh but, of course, I was forgetting – must be my age – you are invincible when a teenager. We would not only have had to find a working phone box – you know the ones that look like Dr Who’s tardis painted bright red with windows (if you were lucky it had glass) which had such a heavy door you needed muscles that you didn’t know existed just to get into it – and then…. you had to find money – yes actual coins to make a call. Oh, how things have changed!
What next? Well I think in our children’s lifetime, you’ll find the driver telling the car’s computer where to go, probably avoiding any traffic jams or hotspots of traffic on the way and settling down for a snooze while the car takes you to your destination, avoiding any objects on the way, you know like other cars, pedestrians or roundabouts for example – and parking itself – followed by “you have arrived at your destination – WAKE UP!”.