NGATAKI, New Zealand —
Bob Edwards was born before the first Model T rolled out of Henry Ford's factory in Detroit. 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.
The oldest licensed driver in New Zealand, and one of the oldest in the world, has been driving for 88 of his 105 years and has no plans to give it up, just as he intends to keep working out every morning in his home gym, and to keep regularly cooking meals for himself and his wife, who's 91.
"In fact, I don't think I'm old," Edwards says. "Not really."
He's been involved in just one crash in his life and has gotten just one speeding ticket, a citation that still gets him riled up years later. When he broke his left hip three years ago, his doctors said to stop driving for six weeks but he didn't pay them much mind. 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 U.S. states have similar requirements.
While stories about elderly drivers making mistakes or causing crashes often make headlines, it's young drivers who tend to cause the most damage.
"Older drivers, on a per-kilometer-driven basis, are involved in far fewer crashes than younger drivers," said Andy Knackstedt, a spokesman for the New Zealand Transport Agency, which oversees driver testing.
He said that for many elderly people, retaining a license helps them maintain their independence, mobility and dignity. "Our job is really to balance that with the need to make sure our roads are safe," he says.