There is an assumption made that most of my pupils are 17 year olds who are learning to drive because their parents want them to or their friends already have. In fact, most of my pupils tend to be a little more mature and their reasons sometimes are different to what you might think.
I have two pupils at the moment whose reasons are different, specific and brave. Both of them have been involved in horrendous, tragically fatal, road accidents; both were blameless; both were seriously injured and as a result still carry physical, mental and emotional scars. Their reasons for taking lessons are different but both have exhibited, and continue to exhibit, great courage in tackling such an emotionally charged learning process. They are nothing short of inspirational.
V was a passenger in a car in Ghana back in 1997. The driver lost control as a result of a blowout on the motorway whilst exceeding the speed limit. The car was catapulted across the central reservation somersaulting a number of times. The driver was paralysed, V's friend died of her injuries and V herself had a long stay in hospital. The other passenger escaped with a broken leg. Until recently V has been unable to talk about the accident in anything other than the vaguest terms but now, due to a therapeutic visit to Ghana, has finally been able to come to terms with what happened. V doesn't have a UK licence and it has taken considerable motivation on her part to get her provisional and start to learn over here.
J was riding pillion on a motorcycle involved in a head on crash with a lorry in 2011, an accident in which her partner died and she was trapped for a considerable time. It has been a hard road back to life for J and setting goals has helped her to focus and progress. One of the goals she has set herself is to get mobile again. Having had her full licence for a while, J needed the confidence to get back on the road.
It is so easy to forget that these cars that we treat so casually at times are actually killing machines in the wrong hands. It is incumbent upon us all to ensure that we never drive flippantly or carelessly, instead applying the fullest concentration at all times and ensuring that we always maintain absolute control of the car. When we sit behind the wheel we are not only responsible for our own lives but those of all road users that we come across whilst driving. If our driving is below standard then it is our responsibility to do something about it. No-one likes the idea of someone else reviewing their driving (me included) but sometimes we need to swallow our pride and accept professional help so that we know, beyond any doubt, that our driving is as safe as it can be.
Even though V hasn't yet passed her test and J hasn't yet felt confident enough to venture out on her own, both these women are brilliant drivers. It's not just about being able to control the car, it's about conveying safety and comfort to me as an instructor. I feel utterly safe and completely comfortable with both of them, to the extent that I would happily allow them to transport my loved ones without a second thought. I know that they understand better than most the danger associated with motor vehicles, their own limitations and the concentration and care that they need to exercise at all times. If all drivers had just a little of their attitude the roads would be a much safer place.
For both of these women the trauma that they suffered, and continue to suffer, would have prevented many people from moving on in their lives. I applaud them for doing so. I applaud them for their determination to fight for what others take for granted. I applaud them for seeking professional help with their driving. I applaud them for taking a responsible attitude whilst on the roads and keeping themselves, me and other road users safe. I applaud them for persevering both in attitude and actions. I thank them for the laughs that we have had together. Above all, I thank them for their friendship and being so insprational. I wish I had your fortitude and strength and I look forward to continuing to help you achieve your goals.