3.

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Stop

‘Stop... Start... Stop... Just as I’ve been telling you.’
My passenger was commenting on the behaviour of the car in front of us. I was waiting to enter one of the busiest of Noosa’s roundabouts, when the car ahead momentarily surged forward, then stopped abruptly before lurching ahead again and sweeping slowly around the two-lane roundabout and heading off to the right.

Dr Rivlin had surprised me when I’d asked for a medical endorsement for my driver’s licence after my 75th birthday. Instead of simply checking blood pressure, heart sounds and eyesight as I’d expected, he insisted that I drive him from his surgery to the roundabout at the northern end of Reef Street and back. As we drove off, I’d asked him why.

‘I could find an 80-year old driver to be healthy for age, measured by assessment of vital signs and eyesight,’ he replied, ‘and yet be in a complete dither when driving in busy traffic. A few milliseconds’ increase in reaction time can destroy your ability to perform complex tasks confidently.’

I knew Rivlin was qualified to conduct the rigorous health checks needed for renewal of air pilots’ licences, so he probably had a point. And the snowy-haired fellow ahead of us had shown no confidence at all under moderate pressure.

‘Maybe he’s a Victorian driving a Queensland-registered hire car and he’s not used to roundabouts,’ I ventured. ‘I remember doing three-sixties around one or two of these things when we first moved here...’

‘Nice try,’ said my examiner, ‘but no. I’ve seen enough of my old patients become incompetent drivers, and this roundabout sorts them out every time.’

I was silent on the drive back. In a few years’ time, would I be changing my GP or buying a horse?

- Roger Kelly