As we get older, there will always be certain dates that stick in our minds. One that I will never forget in particular, is the day I passed my driving test!
I often think about that day now, and it still brings a smile to my face. Not only because it was a gloriously sunny day (which of course is a rarity in Cornwall!), but because it was the day I grabbed my independence by the balls.
Being able to drive is the “norm” for most people, but for me it was a different kind of achievement. I never thought it would be something I could physically do, let alone be bloody good at (did I mention I got zero minors?! haha)
Due to muscle weakness in my legs, I have to use hand controls in a specially adapted vehicle. I remain seated in my wheelchair, which has also had alterations in order to fit the car.
My ramp and doors are also controlled via electric buttons, alongside a computer steering system.
Most people are confused/nervous of my hand controls when they first travel with me. My accelerator and brake are on a fixed lever, alongside a miniature turning stick.
I can drive without touching the main steering wheel - I mean what’s there to be scared of?! LOL
On reflection, learning to drive was definitely an eventful experience for me. The week before my test, the electronic steering system malfunctioned during one of my lessons. After losing control, the car was written off and I had no other choice than to cancel my test.
I can still remember the exact moment of panic and helplessness during the crash. Thank god there were no cars coming towards us, as we swerved on the opposite side of the road.
Not only had this knocked all my confidence, but it was also the ONLY local vehicle that was adapted for me to drive.
To say I was devastated would be an understatement. But don’t worry guys, I eventually took my ‘man up’ pills and started the process of applying for my own car.
Obviously due to the amount of high tech equipment and adaptions, I would never be able to afford a complete purchase. I therefore joined the Motability scheme and have never looked back.
A year or so passed and I eventually had the car of my dreams (a VW Caravelle, Nevada). I took some refresher lessons and on June 19th 2012, I passed my test for the very first time.
It’s not very often I pat myself on the back, but I’m so proud of what I have achieved! The ability to drive is something that we all take for granted, but it means so much more to me than just getting from A to B.
It brings me independence and a whole new level of freedom. I often jump in the car now and just go for drive - windows down, music blaring! I would honestly be lost without it.
Shoutout to my instructor Lois, from Cornwall's Mobility Centre. Thank you for putting up with me, and sorry for nearly killing us both!