THE much-publicised car crash involving the 97-year-old Duke of Edinburgh has quite naturally set tongues wagging, particularly with the question: Is he too old to be driving?

This is one that is always good for getting a polarised debate going, with one side insisting that older drivers should be subject to regular medical checks to ensure the are fit to be behind the wheel, and the other lamenting the loss of freedom and independence that would be caused if more senior motorists were to be deprived of their licenses.

Naturally, of course, there is some truth on both sides. More experienced drivers are, on the whole safer than younger ones - especially young men in their teens and early 20s - and this is reflected in the various insurance premiums they are charged.

But there is no denying that advancing age is accompanied by all sorts of unwelcome symptoms, such as increasingly poor eyesight and hearing, slower reactions, and mobility difficulties that mean it is more difficult to operate the car's controls.

There is currently no legal age at which you must stop driving, although motorists over 70 have to renew their licences, and are strongly urged to consult their GPs if they have any doubts about their fitness.

There is no doubt that it can be difficult to tell an elderly person, particularly a parent, they they should no longer be driving. It can fell as though you're telling him or her that they are 'past it' and, of course, many people hate having their driving skills questioned.

It anyone thinking this way in the Royal Household right now? Of course, Prince Philip has it easier than most of the rest of us, since he's wealthy enough to hire a chauffeur, or any number of chauffeurs, for that matter.

In fact, one wonders whey he has not already done it. That's a luxury the rest of us don't have.

Of course, this whole issue may be completely moot in a few years, if the promoters of the autonomous car concept are correct.

But whether they are correct, or whether they are living in a techno-fantasy world, is a question for another time.