Guilty secret

by Suw on January 16, 2005

When I was 18, I totalled my Mum's car. Three months after passing my test on the second attempt, (I failed the first one due to a handbrake turn), I spun my Mum's car, putting it up a bank and into the back of a 'give way' sign. By the time I had finished with it, the front wheels weren't touching the ground. If I remember correctly, the back wheels weren't either.
My parents forced me to drive after the accident, but sitting in a (new) car with my Mum's hand hovering permanently over the handbrake didn't do my confidence much good. Not that my confidence had ever been that great as I'd always been secretly terrified of cars. I now haven't driven for about 15 years.
Let me just give you a bit of background. I come from a very car-oriented family. My brother used to build replica 1920s Fords and works now in the motor trade. My Dad used to be a rally driver and navigator, and regularly went karting and hill climbing. (He also used to go handgliding, using a handglider that he made himself from a photo in a magazine. You get the picture.) Various cousins, uncles and grandparents have raced. My great-grandparents owned a garage. Cars are in the blood.
Except, it all sort of skipped a generation with me. Cars have always scared the living crap out of me, even before I totalled my Mum's. I mean… you're getting into a machine… you're sitting in a machine that moves at high speed. People die in cars. Frequently. Painfully.
Anyway, I stopped having the nightmares about driving a few years ago, which is good. I've even had some dreams where I was quite happily driving. But I still get jumpy in a car, and I still don't think that me, driving, is a good idea. Not for me, not for my passengers, not for anyone.
But… just recently… I've really been enjoying watching Top Gear. I don't know what they are talking about half the time, but Richard Hammond is cute and Jeremy Clarkson is funny. The other dude is, well, whatever. I can't believe this. I am actually enjoying a programme about cars. They make driving look like fun. They make cars look interesting. And you know what? It's starting to make me want one.
But don't worry. For the sake of public safety, I shan't be getting one. I'm still too lily-livered to actually want to drive again.

Anonymous January 17, 2005 at 3:58 am

What exactly is a 'handbrake turn'? DB.

Anonymous January 17, 2005 at 8:31 am

A handbrake turn is what Starsky and Hutch used to do. You know, they're driving along, eating their donuts, shooting the breeze, when the radio crackles to life: 'armed robbery in progress on Donut Street…'
HUTCH: But Donut Street is back that way!
Starsky yanks on the handbrake… eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, go the tyres as the distinctive Ford Torino makes a lazy 180 degree spin into the other lane, then… EEeeeee (smoke pours from wheel arches)…brrrrrrmmmm…brrrrrrrmmmm… BRRRRMMMMMM!

Anonymous January 17, 2005 at 9:00 am

Anonymous has described it pretty well – it's a turn achieved by using the handbrake rather than the steering wheel. In my case, the drive test instructor said 'turn left' but I was suffering a bit from the flu and the instruction didn't really penetrate my brain too well and by the time I turned I was going a bit too fast, so he pulled on the handbrake and the car went 'squeeeeeeeee' and slid sideways up the road, onto the pavement, stopping a few inches from a parked car.
At that point, he decided it might be safer if he drove us back to the test centre. I didn't argue. I was too busy trying not to faint from a temperature that was nearing dangerous. In fact, that particular bout of flu nearly put me in hospital so I probably shouldn't have taken my test at all, but I had paid for it by then so I figured that it would at least be practice.

Anonymous January 17, 2005 at 12:06 pm

I've never owned a car, and never learned to drive.
I've always looked on car ownership as something I would probably have to do eventually, but would be happy to delay for as long as possible.
So far, I'm still managing to delay it.
I don't think I'm motorphobic…but I suppose it's possible.

Anonymous January 17, 2005 at 12:11 pm

Yeah, I've been happy to delay owning a car too. It's a shame that more people don't, really.
Certainly, though, I have been amaxophobic (i.e. have a fear of 'riding' in a car – never knew if this meant driving or as a passenger or both), particularly if my Dad is driving, but I'm less phobic now than I was. They still creep me out though. Or maybe that's just my Dad's driving…

Anonymous January 18, 2005 at 2:43 am

Ah, that clears up the handbrake turn. It's what I thought it was, but couldn't really why it'd be a requirement for a driving test. As it turns out, it's not.

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