Warning: this post contains smug gloating and self-congratulation!
This week I’ve mastered how to drive using hand controls. This has taken me years to get round to for various reasons and yesterday was the first time I drove, in my own car, without the safety net of an instructor with dual controls.
I first had hand controls fitted to my car 3 years ago through the Motability scheme. Apparently, you’re meant to have an assessment first and then up to 5 lessons to get your head round it but this didn’t happen in my case. As a result, the controls were fitted but I had no support or training so I carried on using my feet which were becoming more and more unreliable. I remember trying to find an instructor without success so carried on driving unsafely, my confidence in driving evaporating with every bump and scrape of the paintwork.
Anyway, I just got a new car and they gave me a leaflet with the hand controls, explaining what to do and how to get an instructor. I took the bull by the horns and made a few calls and before I knew it I had my first lesson booked!
I was terrified at first. All my old anxieties associated with driving lessons bubbled to the surface and I felt inadequate and out of control. It’s so hard to learn a new way of doing something that’s as automatic as driving and I spent the first lesson driving round and round the block with one eye shut!
The controls turned out to be fairly easy; you pull with your right hand to accelerate and push down to brake. This action was easy to master but I found steering more difficult. There’s a ball attached to the steering wheel and you use your left hand to steer. This gets tricky when there’s a sharp turn, especially when trying to remember the pull/push bit and the manual indictor that doesn’t switch itself off!
On the second lesson my instructor suggested we drive to my work in central Brighton so I could get the feel of it. I gulped in terror at first but I needn’t have worried. I managed it with only a few jerks and shudders and my instructor said it didn’t cross his mind to use his dual controls to reign me in! This gave me such a confidence boost and I drove my husband into town the following day in my own car. He was only mildly terrified and nobody died!
The steering is still tricky but it’ll get easier and it’s such a relief to feel in control of a car again rather than worrying about my feet all the time and even having to lift my right leg and put it on the break!
I also feel such an enormous sense of achievement and that’s got to be a good thing!
Good luck with it! I’m off to do the school run!