VIDEO: Blind and partially sighted enjoy the thrill of being in the driving seat

People living with sight loss experienced the joy of whizzing around a racetrack thanks to a local charity for the blind and partially-sighted.

Wednesday, 26th September 2018, 3:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th September 2018, 4:42 pm
Julie Bennett, from Crosby, goes out with learner driving instructor Paul Middleton, from Heywood

More than 60 people attended Galloway’s Driving Day event at the Three Sisters Race Track in Ashton, making it one of the charity’s most popular driving days ever.

The twice-yearly event enables blind and partially sighted people to drive dual controlled cars around the track and to travel as passengers in classic cars and an articulated lorry.

For many of the people attending the day, driving was an important part of life until the loss of their eyesight meant they were no longer able to get behind the wheel.

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Julie Bennett, from Crosby, goes out with learner driving instructor Paul Middleton, from Heywood

One driver taking part in the day, who had previously worked as a lorry driver, told how he relished the experience of travelling in an articulated lorry again.

Peter Galloway, 56, said: “I was always very much a driver. I had cars, motorbikes and drove an articulated lorry for nearly 29 years.

“In 2016 I suddenly lost my sight after I suffered blood clots on the brain. I drove to the hospital and came out 10 weeks later with a white cane and hardly any vision.

“When I lost my sight it was a complete life-changer. I had to get rid of the car and my motorbikes.

“But the Galloway’s Driving Day is such a brilliant day, and it’s great to meet new people and to go in cars I would not have had the chance to travel in before.

“I’ve been in an E-Type Jaguar, a Porsche and I even got back into a lorry, which was brilliant. Having been a driver, it was great to talk about the wagon with someone who knows about them.

“I get to do something I wouldn’t do anywhere else. I’m never going to drive again, but thanks to Galloway’s I get a chance to experience driving again.”

For Mary Wilkinson, 50, the driving day has helped to give her a confidence boost after she was diagnosed with macular degeneration in 2015.

The mum-of-two revealed how she developed a fear of travelling in cars following her diagnosis.

She said: “I became a very nervous passenger after I developed a genetic form of macular degeneration three years ago.

“I have peripheral vision, but can’t see centrally which affects my depth perception.

“When I’m driven around in cars I often can’t see other vehicles until the very last moment, which is terrifying. It affected me quite badly. I just didn’t want to be in a car.

“After taking part in the driving day as a passenger it really helped me overcome some of my anxieties.

“Although I still get nervous, I can now go on the motorway and am less anxious on trips to the lakes.

“It’s made an enormous difference.”

“Galloway’s is such a wonderful organisation you just can’t put a price on the services they provide.”

James Coulton, audio services and outdoors activity co-ordinator for Galloway’s, said: “One of the things people say they miss the most when they lose their eyesight is the ability to drive.

“Our driving days allow people living with sight loss the chance to either get back behind the wheel or to experience driving for the first time.

“The driving instructors give up their cars, fuel and time free of charge.

“Wigan Honda has given us a car for the day, TIPEC and several sport car owners have also donated vehicles. Iceland and XPO Logistics have arranged for us to use an articulated lorry.”

Even the use of Three Sisters Race Track has been loaned to us free of charge.

“It’s such a worthwhile day and we always get great feedback from people who attend.”

For more information on how to protect your eyesight or to help support Galloways, click here