Saturday, July 1

The Driving Test

"Have you informed the DVLA of your condition?
Have you told your insurance company?"

The answer to these questions is to my shame a big

"I think you should go for a driving assessment."

This came from my doctor some weeks ago. The I think bit really translated into YOU WILL go for a driving assessment. Now, I have to admit that I have been sticking my head in the sand and been guilty of the worst sort of procrastination possible when it has come to the driving issue. After all I have lost quite a lot recently and still have a lot to come through. Driving has always been something I have really really enjoyed doing. I drive around 25ooo miles a year and love practically every one of those miles. So despite my legal obligations I have done absolutely nothing about informing anyone. I know, Stupid, Stupid, Stupid, but I have been scared witless they would take it away from me. As for driving I have been sort of getting by on cruise control and by jamming my foot on the pedal and by using my left foot as I could. A very perilous way of driving and you can slate me if you wish. I know I deserve it, but perhaps cut me bit of slack as life hasn't been exactly easy of late.
So last week I went for my driving assessment at the Regional Rehabilitaion Centre in Newcastle. Just having to go somewhere called that makes me feel bit queasy as I never thought of myself as 'rehab' sort of person, but I guess that's what this is all about really. For the first 50 minutes or so I had the usual medical assessment and chit chat, and then they chose a car for me to try out. It was a Ford Focus which to me seems really low and frankly a bit of a sod to get in and out. But I managed. We took a spin around their test track and then we tried using a left foot pedal. I just hated this as I'm not brilliant on my left side and more importantly, after driving for almost 20 years with the right foot its pretty ingrained in your head. To do otherwise would take a lot of thinking about. So I was then introduced to the hand controls. This was a lever at the right of the steering wheel, push to stop, pull to go and a switch to flick for left and right. You use a steering knob to drive with your left hand. We practiced on this for about 30 minutes going round and round, and reversing all over the place. I was actually enjoying myself by now. The assessor was very funny with, I guess, nerves of steel after 6 years of doing this. Unfortunately they have to tell about 50% of people who go there that they are not fit to drive which is a terrible blow. It would be for me.
He decided we could go for a jaunt around Newcastle. They had told me they never do this, so I was by now a star pupil. I felt very happy with the controls I was using and far more so than I have been of recent months. After another 40 minutes of pottering around the city in quite heavy traffic we got back to the centre. I'm pleased to say they didn't stop me from driving, have written a nice report for me and my doctor, told me to sort things out NOW, and generally stop being so stupid. They were right of course, its just sometimes you need someone to TELL you what to do rather than make the decisions yourself all the time. So the car is being converted in a few days time, and the answers to those first questions again? Yes and Yes.

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