Friday 24 January 2020

TYs get their first drive in Collon


JOHN QUINLIVAN has always had a fascination with cars. He laughs as he recalls his mother describing how, as a toddler, he would pull four kitchen chairs together, hold a plate as a steering wheel, and invite everyone in the house to go for a spin.

His love of cars has shaped his working life, first as a mechanic, then as a professional driver and driving instructor with The Driving Academy, and now as the operator of the only dedicated driving programme for teenagers in the north east.

1st Drive, based at Whiteriver Park in Collon, is aimed primarily at Transition Year students, giving them the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of a dual control car and drive on a private road network with a qualified instructor. But there's more to it than that. Students learn about road safety and practical skills in the interactive classroom and workshop.

John is delighted with the positive feedback he has received from schools so far, with students from The Marist, Dundalk, and St Oliver's Community College, Drogheda, giving the thumbs-up to the new facility on recent visits.

'We can cater for groups of up to 60 students,' says John, and while the project is geared for Transition Year students it can also cater for other educational and training groups and youth clubs.

The day's visit is broken into three sessions, with one session in the high-tech interactive classroom for a discussion and video presentation led by a former school principal dealing with wearing seat-belts, driving under the influence of drink and drugs, and using the phone while driving. The students get the chance to take part in demonstrations simulating texting while driving as well as driving under the influence of drink and drugs

Students also visit the workshop where they get the opportunity to see some of the practical skills which students will be expected to demonstrate during the driving test.

The highlight of the day for most students comes when they get behind the steering wheel of a dual controlled car, accompanied by an Rsaapproved driving instructor. Sharing the car with two other students, they get an hour and a half driving experience, including 30 minutes driving themselves.

Ideally located on Whiteriver Park Go-kart track in Collon, just minutes off the motorway, John hopes 1st Drive will attract schools from throughout counties Louth, Meath, Dublin, Monaghan, Cavan, Armagh and Down.

Setting up 1st Drive is the culmination of a long -eld ambition for John. He is grateful to all those who helped him develop the project, especially his sons.

And at a time when any boost to local economy is most welcome, 1st Drive will be providing work for a number of qualified driving instructors.