Retired school principal Merry Poh, who turns 84 this October, has been driving for 65 years.
Madam Poh, a mother of three, has always had a car as it helps her stay independent. However, she almost did not buy her current one, a brand-new Suzuki Swift 1.0.
"I had my previous car, also a Suzuki Swift, for over 10 years and it was starting to show its age. My son was concerned for my safety whenever I drove it."
He then asked her to take a look at the latest Swift.
"When I got into the driver's seat, I immediately felt comfortable. After all, I have owned three Suzukis - two Ignis and one Swift."
She liked it so much that she traded in her old Swift for the new one.
"I like hatchbacks for their ample rear storage space and because they are easier to manoeuvre and park. I also have four dogs and a hatchback makes ferrying them around much more convenient."
Although Madam Poh obtained her driving licence in 1954 (she passed on the first attempt), she got her first car only in 1967.
That car was a Hillman Imp two-door saloon. Although it was not a hatchback, it had a unique feature: The rear windscreen could be flipped open, so you could stow things in the rear seats.
"I have owned many cars and it is difficult to remember them all. But there are key factors I consider when choosing a car - it must be spacious, reliable, comfortable and easy to drive."
Some of the more memorable cars she has owned are the Imp, Volkswagen Beetle, Morris Minor and Honda Accord. The Accord, a hand-me-down from her son in 1988, also gave her the scariest driving experience to date.
That same year, as she was driving along Stamford Road, smoke began billowing from under the bonnet. She was so shocked that she stopped the car in the middle of the road and immediately got out.
"Thankfully, two kind men saw what happened and helped me push the car to the side of the road."
The Accord was subsequently repaired and sold.
Madam Poh has encountered other incidents, but they have never deterred her from driving.
While she acknowledges that driving nowadays is more stressful because there are more inconsiderate and reckless motorists, she believes that it is the driver who controls almost all outcomes.
"Be careful, considerate and vigilant. Drive defensively and give way when necessary. Chances are, you will remain out of harm's way."
As a testament to her good driving habits, Madam Poh has never had a demerit point. "The insurance company always gives me the discount for being a 'good driver'," she says.
When she is not using her Swift to ferry her grandchildren or shop for provisions, Madam Poh enjoys taking the bus and MRT to visit her younger sister Morrie. "I don't like driving into town because of the traffic."
Asked what her ideal driving trip would be, Madam Poh said: "A drive in Vancouver, Canada. I spent a lot of time in Vancouver in the 1990s when my youngest daughter was studying there.
"It would be wonderful to revisit the city and reminisce about the great times I had."
• The writer contributes to Torque, a motoring bi-monthly published by SPH Magazines.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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