Blind mum’s charity drive hits late hitch

A BLIND mother from St Neots who planned to drive eight miles for charity could have her attempt halted unless she can get some insurance. Martine Brooks, 56, who works as a teaching assistant at St Neots Community College, hoped to drive the eight miles

A BLIND mother from St Neots who planned to drive eight miles for charity could have her attempt halted unless she can get some insurance.

Martine Brooks, 56, who works as a teaching assistant at St Neots Community College, hoped to drive the eight miles with a navigator at her side and raise money for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

For the past year she has been having driving lessons in a car park and on a disused airfield. However, her plans to take to the open road on the new - and empty - Great Barford bypass with the Mayor of Bedford, Frank Branston, may have to be rethought because of insurance problems.

Martine, who has been blind for 25 years, said the plans are now uncertain as the Highways Agency wants her insuruers to be responsible for any damage caused during the event.


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The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said it would insure Martine but could not agree to the Highways Agency's terms and conditions.

"At the moment I'm stuck in the middle because of the row between the Highways Agency and the guide dogs charity," she said. "I don't know if I am going to be allowed to do the drive or not."

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She has already complied with the agency's request to carry out the drive in a dual-controlled car. But she is now desperate to find someone in the insurance industry who can help solve her problem.

Martine has owned four guide dogs since going blind - she currently has a nine-year-old retriever called Gable - and wants to repay the charity.

She would drive on the new bypass, before the road is open to motorists, from Bedford to the Black Cat roundabout on the A1.

Martine, married with a 15-year-old son, has been learning to drive with the help of her friend, aerospace engineer, Steve Clarke, also from St Neots, and has reached speeds of up to 65mph.

"It's been a fantastic experience," she added. "On the day I just want to be able to drive properly at a speed of 30 to 40mph and enjoy it."

Martine, who was born with partial sight but went blind following an accident, has also carried out a parachute jump for the charity.

She said "Many celebrations and fundraising events are planned for the 75th anniversary and I wanted to give back some of what Guide Dogs has given me.

"The mayor will be perfectly safe." she said. "A tremendous amount of work has been put in by the Mayor's office, the Highways Agency, the driving school, the St Neots GDBA fundraising volunteers, my husband, Steve and I, and it would be such a shame if I couldn't make the drive.

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