PAUL has been driving for 12 years. He considers himself an experienced and careful driver. He attempts to drive around the course several times. He hits a cone the first time, the second time I'm thrown around the back seat a bit too much to remain comfortable and the third and fourth time he manages a fairly smooth drive without knocking any of the cones over.
"It's quite difficult," he admits of the course.
"Getting used to the car is strange and those turns are not easy."
Paul takes a generous line of top quality cocaine and attempts the course again immediately.
He speeds through the course, appearing, even to a back seat driver, quite confident. He drives over one cone but doesn't knock any down. As he goes round and round the course his driving becomes much smoother until I almost feel comfortable. Mr Bruce instructs Paul to use his brake with no clutch (a common fault in drivers).
Paul seems able to take instructions though he obviously doesn't like it. The cocaine seems to have made it difficult for him to accept any criticism. He goes back to take another line of cocaine and I ask Mr Bruce what he thought.
"He did it all quicker. His judgement seemed heightened. Of course it could have been heightened because he'd been round it more times. If he had been on the roads, the dangers would have been in him going too fast to cope with sudden turns. He was going too fast and he wanted to go faster still, he was getting the bit in his teeth. I could see the bit in him wanting to go faster, he was really enjoying the challenge as it were."
Paul is cocky about his experience of driving on coke.
"I was a lot more into it 'cos I knew where I had to go and how I had to do it. It was really good the second time, much more enjoyable."
Paul takes the wheel a third time as we definitely wanted to assess the effects of an accumulation of coke. This time it seems a slightly rockier ride. He reverses to the right very well but when asked to reverse to the left he clips the kerb slightly.
This time Mr Bruce is more critical of Paul's performance.
"He seemed to lose control of the bottom end of the car slightly a lot of the time. There was also an infinitesimal hesitation which may have upset other drivers."
SANDRA has been driving for nine years. She admits that she thinks of herself as
"not the world's best driver" and feels that
"she can't reverse at the best of times." She attempts to drive around the course straight. She pounds the wheel the first couple of times on the tight turns and finds the course
"quite tricky". Mr Bruce warns her about her 'clutch heaviness', saying that
"if you had any wet on the road, you'd be skidding." Sandra tries the course twice more and seems to be driving around it with complete confidence. I feel safe with her. She smokes a well-endowed joint and comes back to try the course again.
Sandra sets the car up and pulls off quite confidently but, as soon as we are underway, it is obvious that confidence is something she is lacking on this drive. She rides quite heavily over a cone the first time she goes around the circuit. Her breathing is heavy and her nerves are apparent. The second and third time she takes the turns more smoothly avoiding all cones but her speed seems completely erratic. It goes from a normal 30mph to a sudden drop - at one point she's driving at just over 10mph and then, as if to compensate for what she realised is a ludicrously low speed, she suddenly ups it to about 35. When asked to reverse, Sandra drives heavily over a cone again nearly knocking it over.
I feel that if Sandra were driving along the road she may well get pulled over for going so slowly all the time. Mr Bruce is heavily critical of Sandra's driving.
"Her judgement was impaired on three or four occasions. If she'd have been driving on a fast road, she'd have done in her back tyre, it could have exploded. Her speed was erratic. I think she was aware of the fact that her judgement was impaired and she was dropping her speed because of that. Her reversing was - well she took the cone away with her. I think she felt on safe ground with her reversing and so she took the cone away with her. But so many things can develop from the back end problem - she clipped it in the same place all the time."
Sandra admits she did not find the drug-altered drive an enjoyable experience.
"That was completely awful. I couldn't even put the seatbelt on. There's absolutely no way I could go on the road like that. For the first two laps I felt alright and then the mind goes completely. I just started thinking about anything else but driving. I never drive like that. Ever now and then I might have had a bit but not in a state like that. It's the paranoia - you're so worried. I was very conscious of the state I was in. but then it changed in seconds to the weather and I was wondering where the back windscreen wiper was!"
JOE tries the course straight before either of the other drivers. He drives over the cones a couple of times but works out how to give himself more room. He then takes an ecstasy tablet one hour before attempting the course again.
Moments before it's Joe's turn to attempt the course under the influence, he's looking decidedly uneasy about it.
"I've just had a mad rush," he yells.
"I'm up, I'm so fucking up - there's no way I can drive."
Joe agrees to attempt the course and he gets into the car. Mr Bruce tells him about leaving the clutch alone a bit more and we're off. Joe goes round very very fast. He can't really follow instructions that well and I'm rocked around a great deal in the back. As he's driving around Joe is continually giving out information to Mr Bruce about how he was taught to drive and what he was told to do. He can't take the criticism that he should come off the clutch a bit more, he keeps trying to tell Mr Bruce what he was taught to do and demonstrate different methods of driving. The tyres are screaming as he takes the corners. He can't stop talking and he has to be told that he's in fifth instead of first gear at one point.
"We don't want that," says Mr Bruce of his impromptu displays,
"just show us how you normally drive."
He reverses to the right quite competently. When asked to pull out and reverse to the left, he drivers over the kerb with his front and back tyre, admits he didn't realise the kerb was there and hits a cone while reversing to the left.
I feel extremely frightened by Joe's driving. It is far too fast, erratic even, he appears to be showing off and if I was a passenger for real I would have asked him to let me out after the first few seconds. As it is the entire drive with him is a pretty scary experience even with the knowledge that there are dual controls. Mr Bruce is damning.
"Awful. He was easily riled. In another situation it could have been much more aggressive. I thought I'd criticise him to begin with and see what happened and he took it to heart and began to show off. If he'd had his clutch down he would have skidded every time. On the roads he would have tended to drive thinking that he had a greater ability and that his ability would not have been impaired. There's always misjudgement, you think that a thing is ten yards away when it's really ten feet away. You don't see pedestrians 'cos you're not interested in pedestrians, you're interested in showing what a good driver you are."
Joe is by now feeling the peak of his E. When I asked him to tell me how he felt about the quality of his driving, he says:
"I don't know, I just want to kiss you." Eventually he tries to tell me his feelings about the drive.
"I could have done anything. I could have driven how I wanted and been in control. I wanted to freak the man out and show him that I could have done anything. I'm a competent driver - I've controlled a car at 100mph on black ice and kept all my faculties there."
But would he drive in this state?
"Not far. I wouldn't want to. I wouldn't want to put myself in that situation, but if I knew the driver wasn't competent enough and I had to get everyone home safely then I'd have done it. I wouldn't like to drive that far if I had to go on a motorway. I wouldn't do it. It's too dangerous. My licence is too important to me. It's not worth it and any fool that does it is a complete arsehole."