Pensioner with muscle and nerve conditions has independence saved thanks to Dunstable driving centre

Christine at HAD's outreach service, Dunstable Disability Resource Centre.
Christine at HAD's outreach service, Dunstable Disability Resource Centre.

A determined woman received “the best 70th birthday present” when a Dunstable charity made sure she wouldn’t have to hang up her car keys for good.

Christine Simmonds, of Leighton Buzzard, has lived with the genetic muscle disease myotonia congenita since childhood, which causes her muscles to contract and release at the wrong times.

However, when she developed peripheral neuropathy five years ago it looked like the addition of this condition, that hinders movement and flexibility in the ankles and feet, would mean her driving days were over.

Not to be defeated, Christine contacted the charity HAD, of Welwyn Garden City and Dunstable, who arranged for her to learn to drive an adapted car and take a DVLA test - which she passed with flying colours.

Christine said: “I can’t wait to jump into my own car and visit friends and family who live further afield. It is so important to me and will make such a difference.”

Christine started her journey at HAD with an initial assessment in October, including strength exercises. She then had a go at driving an adapted automatic transmission Vauxhall Mokka fitted with push/pull hand controls, mounted on the right hand side of the steering column.

Driving assessor, Mark Thackeray, explained: “The hand control lever was fitted with an integral switch for operating the indicator signals and Christine steered left handed using a steering ball, mounted at the ten o ’clock position on the steering wheel.”

HAD provide services for older and disabled people including mobility products, and a driving centre providing lessons and assessments. Call: 01707 324581 or visit: www.hadnet.org.uk.