The Cork farmer driving a beef farm in a different direction

A Co. Cork farmer has converted 3 acres of her beef farm into a driving academy which includes roundabouts and traffic lights.

Mary Keohane, from Bantry Co. Cork was a beef farmer with 100 acres and around 30 cattle when she decided to diversify and change part of her farm.

Bantry Driving Academy was established in 2010 after Mary saw her daughter driving slowly and carefully out the road one night and felt she was a danger to herself and others.

Watching her prompted Mary to go on to train as a driving instructor and, straight away, she set about researching the most effective ways of teaching young people to drive.

The driving school cost €300,000 to build, half of which came from the West Cork Development Partnership and its farm conversion scheme.

Mary says that she soon realised that, when drivers start learning young, everyone on the road is safer.

With the experience they’ll be much better drivers when they do get on the road.

The driving academy has a 1km practice track, roundabouts and yellow boxes.

The practice track replicates different road scenarios that a driver would encounter such as roundabouts, yellow boxes, exiting and entering lines and parking, Mary says.

She says there was an opportunity to develop an area where people could come and learn the skills of driving in the comfort and security of being off the road.

As well as a dual-control car, the driving school has driving simulators, which allows learner drivers to experience every stage and challenges that a driver may come across on the road.

There is also a maintenance centre and a computer zone where drivers can understand the theory of driving.

As the driving school has gotten busier, Mary is now farming part-time.

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