I attended an event which gives people who cannot see the chance to drive a car. I am blind. It was very exciting to drive on a race track. I drove very fast. My wife was in the back seat. She was worried that I was going too fast. The instructor told her to get out. The 45 minute session went very fast. I did not want to stop. I want to do it again.
Posted by: Graeme Turner, on 20/01/10
A chance to jump into the driver's seat
Gently on with the gas, said the instructor calmly. The car moved slowly forward. It sounded like any normal driving lesson, except that I am blind.
In the Driver's Seat is an annual event staged by the Warrandyte Lions Club and the RACV. It lets people with a vision impairment experience what it is like to be behind the wheel of a car. It is held at the Sandown Motor Circuit.
I managed to book a driving spot towards the end of the day. Soon an indemnity form arrived in the mail. They were certainly moving fast to cover themselves from litigation.
The day finally came. The anticipation was as sizzling as the food.
Getting behind the wheel
Rides on motorcycles and vintage cars offered enjoyment. But I was there for the main event: getting behind the wheel myself.
Manual or automatic? asked a volunteer.
I’ll take the first I can get, I responded. This turned out to be automatic. It was fine. I have driven a manual car briefly once before. It was just once around the paddock at my uncle’s farm. It was much to the consternation of a few bewildered cows. Driving an automatic would also save me treating the gears like a meat mincer.
All the cars were dual control driving school vehicles. The instructor sat on the passenger side. We cruised our way slowly around the car park. Everything proceeded fine until I rolled down the ramp onto the track itself and (at the instructor's invitation) began to apply the accelerator.
My wife had taken a back seat on the condition that she said nothing.
Slow down! she immediately howled. It wasn’t long before the instructor figured it was much better if she left the car.
My frantic beloved was suddenly confronted with the prospect of weaving her way across the track in front of half a dozen vision-impaired drivers.
Not too fast here, cautioned the instructor.
We've got four cars ahead of us. Turn right. I mean, left! The car shuddered as we hit gratings.
Foot to the floor
Back into the straight again (and with one less passenger) it was time for some real action. Move over Peter Brock, here I come.
Slow down a little, said the instructor.
Brake. Not too much, she added as the vehicle suddenly lost speed, jerking us forward.
Around again and my foot was heading towards the floor. I was pressed back in the seat. My hands on the wheel sensed the run of the road.
You’re now over 130, the instructor said.
Exhilaration surged through me. It was terrific to be breaking the usual speed limit without any boys in blue on my tail. For the first time in my life I knew what it was to be a petrol-head.
All too soon my 45 minutes came to an end. It was time to cruise slowly back into the car park. I could have driven all day if they’d let me.
When we left the circuit, my wife was now back in control behind the wheel of her own car. All I could do now was sit back, endure the ride, and look forward to the next opportunity to hit the track.
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