"Do you really teach blind drivers?" the callers asked "Can blind drivers really get a license to drive in Maine?"
Naturally, Webb's answers were "No, we don't teach blind drivers," and "No, they aren't licensed in Maine." But he was pleased with the attention his school got when it heiped fulfill the dreams of 25 blind people: to find out what ifs like to really drive a car.
Maine Blind Foundation Contacts School
Because of his reputation as a pro- fessional racing instructor, skid school teacher and driving instructor for the speech and hearing impaired, the Maine Blind Foundation approached Webb with the idea for an activity which involved driving a car "Was it possible to have a day outing where they could drive a car?"
Webb said Sure" and drew upon his experience teaching students how to gain confidence by parallel parking with their eyes closed
. Securing the use of a large parkng lot on the University of Maine campus in Auburn, Webb marked off a "solo course with cones. The course went right left right left through cones, followed by a sweeping left hand turn - then right left right left again - then straight through the gates to the end. The object was to negotiate the course as quicky and accurately as possible, utilizing Webb as each drivers eyes.
Clock Positions Were the Key - Meeting with 25 blind people, ages 18 to 60, Webb first discussed the hand positions on a clock asking the drivers to move their hands to the correct positions as Webb called out twelve, three, nine, and so forth. Once they had mastered this concept each driver had three practice runs on the actual course. followed by two competitive timed runs.
The vehicles were driven only in low gear which Webb says produced a feeling of acceleration along with the whine of the engine. It also fostered better control and avoided the use of the brakes. the aim was to drive fast enough to go between the cones, but not so fast that we'd have to brake.
The contests proceeded from eight in the morning until five in the afternoon. all to the tune of Webb's chants of "left 11 o'clock speed up a little bit right three o'clock slow down a little bit, left nine o'clock speed up a little bit" - preceded by "quickly" when a fast response was required.
Webb says "a good time was had by all and everyone thought it was absolutety neat!" He subsequently made a television commercial from TV footage shot by a local station and used the event in his newspaper advertisements.