Track and feel

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WE take many little things for granted in this day and age - one of those things I certainly feel I couldn’t live without is the ability to drive.

Of course, it takes months of arduous learning, and those who pass their test fully deserve it.

Guide Dogs Blind Drive with BSM driving instructors at Three Sisters Race Circuit: Reporter Greg Farrimond dons a blindfold for hid 'blind' lap

Guide Dogs Blind Drive with BSM driving instructors at Three Sisters Race Circuit: Reporter Greg Farrimond dons a blindfold for hid 'blind' lap

But for some it is simply a task they are never given the opportunity to fulfil.

Last week, a number of blind or partially-sighted people descended on the Three Sisters racetrack, and were given the chance to do something they have always wanted to do.

Some drivers taking part may have visual impairments, but they were competing on a level playing field with sighted people, as all drivers wore blindfolds.

The whole day was organised to raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

One of the groups attending was Bolton College, who are raising money in memory of Wigan man Bill Barton, who was a student at the college.

They hope to raise enough money for a new guide dog puppy.

I went down to the track to meet Hindley man Brian Hilton, who is partially sighted. He was being taken around the course with BSM instructor Steve Wood.

It wasn’t the first time for the 49-year-old though, who described the experience as ‘invigorating’.

He said: “Steve is one of the best instructors, he’s very audio-descriptive in telling me what to do.

“I’ve got a little bit of vision in my left eye, so I can see the red and white on the curbs, so I follow those, and Steve helps me with the bends I can’t see.

“The dogs help get us out and help us with our independence, finding dogs and getting on public transport which we are reliant on. Without them we’d be lost.”

It isn’t just those taking part who enjoy themselves, the BSM instructors also said they had a great time.

“I love it,” added Steve, who has also taken part before. “I teach people with disabilities anyhow, but obviously being blind is totally different.

“They’re so confident when they go around. Once they’ve done the first circuit, there’s no stopping them!

“We do it once a year, it’s a good cause and it helps them get some money – everyone gets some sponsors.

“The more they can get the better, really, it helps to train more dogs.”

It was a very different experience for me, though.

Driving seems to come naturally when you have been doing it for a number of years, so to have to fully rely on somebody else is slightly daunting.

I repeatedly kept thinking I was driving at around 30mph when, in fact, I was going more like 15mph!

But who were the better drivers?”

“Definitely the blind people,” added Steve. “When you’ve lost your sight or you’ve got restricted vision, you’re used to putting your trust in other people, and maybe a dog.

“When you have full vision and you’re a driver yourself, it’s something totally alien for you.”