Yesterday, at around 6pm I was chatting with my boss James Rea, when one of the producers came over and uttered the words: "It's just been announced that the Duke of Edinburgh has... " We looked at each and thought "OMG", or words to that effect ... And then he finished the sentence with ...  "been involved in a car crash." He then explained the details. 

My first thought was: "Old man involved in minor prang and isn't injured. Not exactly a headline news story, is it?" But of course it was. It involved a member of the Royal family, and later, when the pictures of his overturned Land Rover Discovery Sport emerged it was clear that this could have been far worse. People immediately started to argue about whether a 97 year old should even be allowed behind the wheel of a car - a totally ageist argument. It's one that can be totally shot out of the water by looking at the number of old people involved in accidents and then compare those figures to the accident figures for 18-25 year olds.

Land Rover

Obviously, for anyone to be involved in an accident where you own car turns over is a traumatic experience. As I know from my own experience, the shock often doesn't hit you until the next day. Prince Philip will be needing a lot of emotional support today. 

When I was 22 I had a crash in Norwich. I was a candidate in the county council elections and was taking three old ladies to vote. I indicated to turn right into the polling station, when an 18 year old on a motor bike decided to overtake me. Bad move. He hit my driver's side wing and flew over the bonnet, landing in the middle of the road with a broken leg. I ended up directing the traffic, respendent in my blue rosette, until the Police and an ambulance came. The old ladies went into vote but I never did discover how they got home. 

The next morning I woke up and started thinking what could have happened. "I could have killed him," I kept saying to myself. It was the first day of my finals and an hour later I was due to take my German oral exam. I went to pieces. I went round to my friend Tim's and completely broke down, howling my eyes out. I didn't realise it at the time, but I was in shock. Tim rang my German tutor and arranged for me to delay taking the exam by 24 hours. 

It wouldn't surprise me if the Duke were going through a similar experience today. He may well be thinking that he ought not to drive anymore. I hope he doesn't take that view because this sort of accident could happen to anyone. From what I have seen, his age was not a factor.

One other point (which I discuss in the video above). I was driving with my sisters to a local pub to celebrate my 20th birthday in my orange Ford Cortina Mk III. I approached a bend and found a white transit van on my side of the road. It was in the days before compulsory seatbelts. I hit it head on at 50 mph. How we weren’t all killed I just don’t know. One of my sisters was screaming, mainly because her front teeth had been knocked out when the front of her head collided with the windscreen. The other fractured her skull when her forehead collided with the back of my other sister’s head. I had gripped the steering wheel so tight it was totally mangled. I ran to a local house to call 999. I was in total control until my father arrived on the scene, when I broke down completely. Once the ambulance had taken my sisters away he led me to his car and then made me drive. It was the best thing he could have done.

Had he not made me drive there and I then he told me afterwards he thought I might never get behind the wheel again. If he's up to it, I hope someone says the same thing to the Duke of Edinburgh today.

He should get behind a wheel as soon as possible.