Skills course puts Terence in the driving seat

12.00 | 4 September 2014 |

An experienced former professional driver proved he still has the golden touch after brushing up on his skills behind the wheel. 

Terence Otter, of Belmont, Durham, has become the 100th person to complete Durham County Council’s Safer Driving with Age (SAGE) driving assessment.

The assessment helps older motorists maintain and improve their driving abilities so that they can keep using their vehicles for as long as it is safe for them to do so.

During his career Mr Otter held a variety of driving jobs and even delivered gold bullion to banks throughout London. He also helped deliver all the glass used to build the iconic General Post Office Tower (now BT Tower) in the capital.

Now retired, Mr Otter wanted an impartial opinion of his driving ability after he turned 80 in November 2013.

He decided to take part in the SAGE driving assessment programme, which is run by the council’s road safety team, and was delighted he did so.

Mr Otter said: “I have been driving constantly since I was 17 and I love it. My passion started at the age of 15 when I used to drive the trucks off-road for my father who was a haulage contractor.

“I still love driving but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting a bit rusty so I decided to get a second opinion.

“I made a couple of silly mistakes during the assessment but otherwise it went well and it really helped to have someone else point out what I was doing right and what I needed to work on.

“I would urge anyone over the age of 55 or 60 to sign up for the programme and let someone who really knows what they’re talking about help you make sure you’re driving safely and as well as you can.”

Mr Otter’s driving skills were put to the test by experienced assessor Linda Glendinning.

She said: “Mr Otter completed the assessment as he was keen to get a second opinion on his driving ability as he was aware that bad habits can creep in as we get older.

“During the assessment he demonstrated that he is a courteous driver and he drove at a good, safe standard, with only a couple of minor tweaks needed.

“The SAGE programme is a great way of making sure that, as motorists get older, any problems or habits that might develop in their driving style are addressed.

“The assessments also give older drivers reassurance that their driving ability is up to our ever-changing roads. Statistically from the age of 55 and over our risk on the road increases and taking part in the simple assessment is a really effective way to help reduce that risk.”

The SAGE driving assessment programme has been running successfully for several years, with the number of people who have taken part steadily rising, before reaching a record 102 last year.

Assessments cost just £15 and are available to residents of County Durham and Darlington aged 55 and over.

As motorists get older they tend to modify their driving habits – their eyesight may have deteriorated, reactions slow and they may not be as good at judging speeds and distances as they once were.

Roads have also changed, becoming much faster with new traffic systems in place, and cars are quicker than they used to be.

Older drivers also often avoid driving at night and steer clear of areas they are unfamiliar with or places that are more likely to be busy and congested.

These factors affect driving ability, but older motorists are able to spot a hazard on the road sooner than a younger driver.

The assessment is aimed at helping boost older drivers’ confidence behind the wheel. Specially-trained assessors come out to the client’s home at a convenient time, using their own car on roads they are familiar with.

At the end of the 40-minute drive the assessor gives the client feedback on how it went and puts a report together. Certificates are also issued.

Paul Watson, Durham County Council’s road safety manager, said: “We are delighted that Terence has become the 100th person to take part in the SAGE assessment programme.

“This is an extremely worthwhile scheme which has proved very successful in boosting confidence among older motorists and helping to make sure they can continue to drive safely for as long as possible.”

For more information about the SAGE driving assessment programme call the council’s road safety team on 03000 268 173 or email





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