Dad knows best

Blog post posted on 21/06/20 |

For Father’s Day, Pete Doherty, Area Service Delivery Manager, reflects on how his daughter is following in his career and Advanced Driving footsteps and what that means to him. 

One of my most memorable Father’s Day gifts was the year my daughter, Lex, passed her Advanced Driving test with a F1RST. Talk about a proud dad moment. 

Like me, Lex is making her way in a career in policing and in IAM RoadSmart. And like me, she’s keen to give something back through her contribution towards our road safety mission. 

My relationship with IAM RoadSmart started when I completed my police motorcycle course and my instructor directed me towards the charity. Now, 22 years on from pitching up to my local group in 1998, Lex is following in my footsteps. A qualified Advanced Driver, she had just started on her Observer training before lockdown started and ultimately, like me, she wants to become an Examiner. 

I started my driving and riding career early. Living in rural Wales, there was plenty of opportunity to practice driving on private land. By the age of six I could ride a motorbike, and at 12 I was driving tractors and forklifts on the farm. 

Growing up on a television diet of Z-Cars, The Sweeney and The Professionals, a career in the police service seemed like the ideal way to live out my love of driving and aged 17, I joined the Metropolitan Police Cadet Corps. The accommodation was within the grounds of the training site and overlooked the driving school skid pan. Heaven! 

Lex started getting to grips with cars aged around 13 when she also had the chance to do some practice on private land. She would continually and enthusiastically practice on anything with four wheels whenever she got the opportunity. It would be fair to say she took to driving like a duck to water and naturally found her feet, whereas big brother had to work at it a little harder.

So, by the time she started learning to drive – as dad’s precious cargo, I wouldn’t let her go down the moped route – she was already well on her way. At the time, I was working as a driving instructor, so her driving lessons were with me. We had some great days….and some not so great days. 

As Lex’s confidence and experience grew, so did the arguments and we both had to learn to keep what happened on a driving lesson in the car rather than taking it back into the house. It was a challenge I didn’t have with my other pupils. Just don’t ever ask about the time she drove onto a cricket pitch when there was a match in progress…..!

Full of nerves before her driving test, she asked the examiner if she could do spoken thought. She passed with flying colours – only one minor fault recorded – and the examiner thought the commentary was a brilliant idea! 

So, without further ado it was time for the Advanced Driving course. It would be fair to say that the dad/daughter/instructor/pupil relationship was now stretched to its limit, as any parent who has taught their kids to drive will understand. So, Lex signed up with her local group and gave me a memorable Father’s Day gift shortly afterwards with that F1RST. 

A natural behind the wheel, she’s someone who learns by watching and doing which is a perfect fit with Advanced Driving. And there were plenty of skills she’d picked up from watching me – pull push steering and limit points to name just a couple she picked up long before she took the course. 

What I love about Advanced Driver and Rider coaching is watching your average driver or rider flourish and become better and safer behind the wheel or in the saddle. That penny-drop moment when it makes sense and they begin to apply the system themselves, where the coaching becomes less and you can see the marked improvements and consistency in their application of the system. It is always a pleasure for me. 

Lex loves being behind the wheel too and takes every opportunity to drive. She joined the police having volunteered as a Special Constable. She completed her police response driving course within eight months of joining and her aspiration to join the traffic department is within her grasp. Another proud dad moment!

During my police career, I had a range of roles involving cars and bikes. From working alongside fellow ASDM Stuart Haythorn in the Armed Response Unit, to becoming a driving instructor and joining the Met Police Driving School at Hendon - working with ASDM Scott Tulip and Head of Standards Richard Gladman - I loved it all. The skid pan was part of my role at Hendon. Taking me full circle to my cadet days and that view of it from my training accommodation. 

Who knows where Lex’s police and driving career will take her. The next challenge is to get back to her Observer training. There’s still plenty for her to learn, but ultimately, I hope she’ll be able to practice with her mum and pass on Advanced Driving advice to another member of the family.

Over the years, Lex has added to my collection of model police cars, which has pride of place in my office. Normally I get wined and dined for Father’s Day, but this year will have to be a little different. If I get another model car, I’ll have to extend the display case. Or maybe we could just grab a sandwich and a coffee and sit in the car – it’ll be just like being back on shift! 

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