A future in which Grandad could drive

The times being what they are, everything has become hard to predict, particularly traffic. Traffic depends on the times at which people travel and when few companies, institutions and people seem to follow the hours that were once conventional, then traffic jams seem to occur at unexpected times – times like 3.45 pm.

It was probably a combination of schools having staggered starts and finishes and people leaving work early, but at quarter to four traffic on the roundabout on the Tewkesbury Road in Cheltenham was at a standstill. The traffic light controlled roundabout is three lanes wide and is approached by four lane roads, so the potential for congestion is considerable.

Approaching the roundabout, I caught sight of a car stopped across the oncoming lanes. There was a yellow box, but it doesn’t mean you can drive out of a shopping centre and sit stationary across a road.

An old man sat behind the wheel, a white haired lady sat beside him. Slowing to almost a halt, I let him pull into our lane of traffic before he brought oncoming traffic to a halt. He edged slowly forwards. The rear of his car was badly battered. The back window was gone and a large sheet of blue polythene covered both the window area and the lights. Sitting in the right hand of the three lanes, he signalled his intention to pull leftward. The indicator was barely visible and there were nearly three collisions as he made his way to turn left on the roundabout and went on his way toward the centre of Cheltenham.

The man seemed entirely oblivious to the possibility of his causing congestion or an accident, or both.

The man’s driving style brought a smile as I remembered my grandfather. Dying at the age of seventy-seven in 1991, he had spent years driving in a very distinctive way.

Family tradition said that Grandad had taken seven attempts to pass his driving test. Whatever the number of times he had sat with the examiner, it was always a surprise that he held a full driving license.

Grandad drove with a determined manner. Looking straight ahead, he regarded roundabouts as places where he decided where he was going and continued without hesitation. Sitting alongside him one day as he drove me to Taunton station, we reached a roundabout at the edge of the town and went through the roundabout with a look neither to the right nor the left.

The advent of computer driven cars offers a future in which people like Grandad will be safe on the road and old drivers in Cheltenham will not be negotiating the Tewkesbury Road roundabout.

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