The Road Ahead : June July 2014
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB 71 JUN/JUL 2014 THE ROAD AHEAD REAL MEMBER STORIES | MEMBER ESSENTIALS THIS WAS THE reality for RACQ member Shiree Collette, who has Muscular Dystrophy, a neuromuscular, genetic disorder which results in the progressive deterioration of muscle strength and function. For Shiree, the condition worsened after her pregnancy and subsequent birth of her daughter six years ago, with her soon not having the strength in her arms and legs to drive safely. "I used to be able to walk up stairs and then I just couldn't get up them. I was definitely a lot weaker all round," Shiree said. "I wouldn't have risked driving at that time because I had a child. I couldn't put my foot on the brake and go from the brake to the accelerator. My legs were too weak and the delay became too much." After being off the road for about five years, and her daughter about to start school, Shiree decided to investigate whether she would be able to drive again, but her first experience with a driving assessor was not a good one. "I just wanted to get assessed and see if it was something I had to write off for the rest of my life, or if it was something I could try and do," she said. "My daughter was getting close to school age, so I knew I was going to have that huge issue as well, so that kind of gave me the push to try. "My first assessment was a bad experience. The man insulted me and was really rude and, after that one assessment, he told me that he didn't think I'd be able to drive again. After that meeting didn't go well, I was almost going to give up, but it was my husband who said 'no, we'll get you driving again'." Shiree then found another assessor, who was able to see that, with the right vehicle controls, Shiree would indeed be able to drive, which led her to the RACQ Driver Rehabilitation Service in March, 2013, where she learnt to drive using a modified vehicle with hand controls replacing the foot pedals. "The experience with RACQ (compared with that first assessment) was like night and day," she said. "They made sure that the seat was the right height for me to have a good grasp of the steering wheel and gave me the right advice about the type of vehicle modifications I'd need. The man couldn't have been more accommodating and encouraging. It was just great." While it took a bit of practice for Shiree to get used to the hand controls, after a block of double lessons where the RACQ Driver Rehabilitation Service travelled to her home in Kooralbyn, she purchased her modified Nissan X-Trail which has given her back her freedom. "Driving again has given me back more confidence and made me feel a lot happier," she said. "It was something I thought I'd never be able to do again. If I'd stuck to the first opinion, I could have given up and not bothered. It's hard enough with a disability or a condition that you lose independence, but if there is a way to keep that independence, we've got to fight for it. It's just wonderful. "I'm a good driver. It's just a matter of putting the seat at the right height -- getting it so my arm is not too straight or too weak -- so it was thinking a little bit outside the box, and that's what RACQ did. I am very grateful to RACQ." RACQ DRIVER REHABILITATION SERVICE The RACQ Driver Rehabilitation Service specialises in the assessment and corrective tuition of people with medical conditions or physical impairments who wish to get safely behind the wheel again. RACQ Drive Assist staff work in conjunction with medical personnel, such as doctors and occupational therapists, to accurately assess each driver's requirements and limitations and, where possible, assist them to continue or resume driving. The service includes a comprehensive assessment of driving skills, knowledge and abilities, specialised driver tuition tailored to address specific needs, advice on modifications where required including training in their use, and professional advice and information for clients undergoing driver rehabilitation. As well as the Driver Rehabilitation Service, RACQ Drive Assist offers a range of courses and services aimed at improving driver safety. Courses range from defensive driving and towing workshops to Fleet Safety Essential presentations and driving skills assessments. For further details on the RACQ Driver Rehabilitation Service and other RACQ Drive Assist services, call 3361 2382 or 1800 680 039. racq.com.au/driveassist DRIVING IS SOMETHING MANY OF US TAKE FOR GRANTED, BUT WHAT IF WE WERE TOLD WE'D NEVER DRIVE AGAIN?