It’s not easy to give up driving, no matter your circumstances.
Take, for instance, the recent example of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband of England’s Queen Elizabeth II. Last month the 97-year-old Duke caused an accident while driving his Land Rover SUV. He pulled onto a road into oncoming traffic, collided with another vehicle and wound up rolling his SUV. He was unhurt, but two women in the other vehicle had to be treated at the hospital.
Two days later Prince Philip was back behind the wheel, but within a week or so the British Royal Family announced he had decided to give up driving.
“The Duke is reported to have acknowledged that the collision last month was his fault,” the BBC’s royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said. “Now he has chosen to give up some of his independence and will have a driver from this point on.”
The Duke’s decision was clearly not an easy one. He relinquished his license back to the motor vehicle department only after careful consideration, likely weighing the difficulty of living with reduced freedom and flexibility against the risk to himself and his community. It took some time for him to come to the safe conclusion, but from now on he will have a driver shuttle him around.
It is hard for many of us to imagine what a life-changing decision it is to give up a driver’s license. A license for the Prince’s generation, and for many of us, marks a threshold, the gateway to adulthood, a badge of independence and self-reliance. The years before driving are childhood. The years after represent coming of age in the adult world.
And then, one day, you face the reality that you have changed and a big part of feeling like an adult—driving a car—has changed, as well. It’s about more than transportation, it’s about identity.
Prince Philip spent the last few weeks facing that milepost. He made a hard decision, but it was the right decision, and it took consideration and time. He struggled to make it regardless of his ample resources, which go a long way to ensure his change in independence does not approach isolation.
Now imagine all the people facing that same choice without the benefit of a private driver to fall back on. Imagine the difficulty of making the safe decision if turning in your driver’s license means you no longer have a way to get around. Transportation is crucial in modern society. To get to work, to go to school, to buy groceries, all of it requires a car. To go to the doctor, it takes a car. To visit friends and family, it takes a car. Cars are a focal point of society, and to drive one requires a license.
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