New Zealand’s Oldest Driver Has No Plans to Give Up

Born before the first Model T rolled out of Henry Ford’s factory in Detroit, Northland man Bob Edwards, 105, is New Zealand’s oldest licensed driver – and one of the oldest in the world. He learned to drive in a French car that had a lever instead of a steering wheel. And he’s still on the road, only now in a red four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi. Edwards has been driving for 88 and has no plans to give up. He’s been involved in just one crash in his life and has been given just one speeding ticket – but even that still riles him years later. When he broke his left hip three years ago, his doctors told him to stop driving for six weeks but he didn’t pay them much attention. After all, he says, he drives an automatic and only needs his right leg for that. In New Zealand, drivers older than 80 must have their health and vision tested every two years to stay on the road. Many countries in Europe and US states have similar requirements. Edwards drives three times a week to the store nine miles (15km) down the road. He picks up groceries on Sundays and the newspapers on other days. Occasionally, he says, he’ll drive farther afield, to a medical appointment or to visit friends. He grew up in England and he learned to drive in his uncle’s car, a De Dion Bouton. “It was something new. Cars were just coming in,” Edwards says. “It was just marvellous.” Edwards got his first licence in 1925 at the age of 17. Two years later, he saw a Salvation Army ad seeking young men to work on the farms of England’s colonies. “They told me Canada was very cold, Australia was very hot, but New Zealand, they said, was just right,” Edwards says. “So I picked New Zealand.” He eventually bought a Dodge car, converted it into a truck and started transporting the fossilised gum of kauri trees from Snells Beach in the north to the city of Auckland. Soon he was working 16-hour days and transporting butter, groceries and gas; he bought new trucks and employed a couple of drivers. “As far as I’m concerned, driving is a part of me,” he says.

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