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Pensioner ditches L-plates...aged 76!

PUBLISHED: 19:54 29 May 2002 | UPDATED: 12:01 03 March 2010

NOT for one Stowmarket pensioner taking it easy in her twilight years.

Plucky Betty Smith has moved into the fast lane after passing her driving test at the ripe old age of 76!

Some 59 years after she could have first taken her test, Mrs Smith sounded a warning to anyone who thinks she's not up to it.

NOT for one Stowmarket pensioner taking it easy in her twilight years.

Plucky Betty Smith has moved into the fast lane after passing her driving test at the ripe old age of 76!

Some 59 years after she could have first taken her test, Mrs Smith sounded a warning to anyone who thinks she's not up to it.

"Even though I'm that age, I'm not ready to hang up my boots just yet," she said. "It means I'm not going to be confined to the house.

"I know a lot of people don't like the older drivers but a lot of the younger ones on the road wouldn't pass their test if they took it today.'

Betty, of Purcell Road, Stowmarket, took up lessons two and a half years ago and passed at the fourth attempt.

But it will certainly not be her first time on the roads. She already holds a full motorcycle licence.

She said: "I haven't ridden my moped for quite a few years, so I'm pleased to pass my test.

"I started driving two and a half years ago, but it's been very stop-start, stop-start.

"I'm a very lazy driver – I decided to go for the automatic rather than having to think about what gear I'm in."

Betty paid tribute to her family and friends for all the encouragement they offered when she started learning.

She said: "Not one of them said I was too old. A lot of people in my age group told me I was an inspiration to them.

"I haven't told anyone yet, but I'm sure they'll all be elated."

Instructor Mary List praised her special student. She said: "She's been a very determined pupil.

"I do tend to get a few older students, but I think Betty's probably the oldest lady I've taught."

But brave Betty was taking her remarkable achievement in her stride.

She said: "I'm not going to go out anywhere special, I just need to get used to being on the roads first.

"To be honest, I'm just feeling a little bit numb."

FACT-FILE

Betty is a spring chicken compared to Britain's oldest test-taker. Gerty Edwards Land, of Colne, Lancashire, ditched her L-plates at the grand old age of 90 years, 229 days.

But even Gerty is put in the shade by the achievement of American Maud Tull. The Californian granny was 91 when she passed her test and needed a renewal licence aged 104.

According to the DVLA, before Betty passed her test she was one of only nine women aged 76-80 holding a provisional licence.

DVLA figures also show a total of more than 700,000 licence-holders in Betty's age group. But a spokesman said many older motorists stopped driving without returning their licence.

Betty need not have taken a test at all if she had learnt as a teenager. The War meant driving tests were suspended in 1939. Betty was 20 by the time they were reinstated in 1946.

And if she had started driving in the 30s or 40s, she need not have bothered with a seatbelt – they weren't introduced until 1950.


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