Is this proposed law driving a joke too far?

Do you know that a person over 70 years of age is not allowed to drive a schoolbus in Ireland? That is hard to believe – and if it wasn’t a proven fact, delivered by Bryan Dobson, this news item would surely pass for an April’s Fool’s joke.

Check it out for yourselves. Bus Éireann recently said that it has no intention of reversing its current policy of preventing those over 70 from driving school buses.

Donald Trump or Joe Biden can run the most powerful country on the planet, both in their late 70s – and yet, when Trump gets out of jail and comes penniless to live in Dunbeg, he cannot earn a few bob from driving a school bus part-time? That, despite the fact that school runs have been suspended due to a lack of drivers. Children have been left forlornly stranded, smoking their fags on the side of the road as they wait in vain for a bus that never comes to take them the half mile to their place of learning. You might imagine that the answer is to have one of the sixth class pupils take over the role of driving the bus: after all, there is no problem with a minor driving a 150hp tractor on the public road, why not a simple schoolbus?

It is lucky for Bus Éireann, and indeed for our government, that schoolbus drivers are a small lobby; ex schoolbus drivers don’t have the numbers to muster a resurrection.

A European Commission proposal that motorists over 70 may have to undergo regular refresher courses is getting through the EU Parliament – seemingly without a murmur. It was left to Professor Desmond O’Neill, chairman of the Irish Society of Physicians in Geriatric Medicine, to question the merits of this move. Professor O’Neill is opposed to what he calls the commission’s ‘black spot.’ He claimed, rightly we believe, ‘that there is a widespread body of international research which demonstrated that older drivers are the safest group of motorists on roads around the world’.

Actually, a third of all people over 65 killed in road traffic collisions are pedestrians, and the figure is as high as 50% for fatalities in older women. (See reference to lady drivers below.)

Do those figures not suggest that the answer to road fatalities would be to ban walking?

If you think that any of the above is as bad as it gets with regard to regulations… think again! There are outrageous EU driving rules coming into effect down the road. The recently passed proposals on road safety from Brussels comes into effect from March 2026, when every driver over 70, including of private cars, will have to display an ‘S’ plate on their cars. I can only assume that the ‘S’ stands for ‘senior’.

This new law is totally ageist – but I suppose it is no worse than a healthy busdriver taken off the road on his or her 70th birthday. It has been argued that because a learner driver is bound to show an ‘L’ plate and a novice an ‘N’ plate, why should an old driver, allegedly with slower reflexes, object to displaying the ‘S’ plate? I disagree… in fact, I believe that this new law is contemptible on many fronts.

For a start, as the ‘S’ Plate requirement will only apply to EU countries, drivers coming down here from the northern part of our country will be exempt. It’s bad enough that they can come down here, zig-zagging around in their black Audis, with yellow number plates, driving as if the common rules of the road are only for division 3 and 4 counties.

This new law is ageist – and they might have got away with that one… although Mrs Youcanbeserious lies awake at night worrying that anyone might think she is 70. (Giving up driving altogether has been mentioned) but the Gorls will not stand for the sexist aspect of the regulation. There is to be a different ‘S Plate’ for lady drivers. I have not seen either ‘S’ but it appears that there will be a horizontal line down through the lady’s ‘S’ – something not unlike the dollar sign. The reasoning behind opting for a different gender ‘S’, according to the ‘EU Committee on Road Safety’, is because lady drivers over 70 drive differently than men. There is an official word in place to categorise this female group of drivers. It’s a French word that escapes me at the moment. Those of you who did French at school will know the correct word for ‘dithery’.

To add to the disarray, the conspiracy theorists are out in force, claiming that all this is an Eamonn Ryan ploy to get us all up on bikes. We live in quare times indeed…!

Don’t Forget

Cars are like men – the less substantial they are, the more knocking they do.