Golden Girl Gilly Miller will be celebrating 50 years as an IAM RoadSmart member later this year. Gilly is the Vice Chair and currently Acting Chair at Basingstoke Advanced Motorists (BAM). Her late husband Chris, who sadly died last year, was the chair at BAM for many years. Here, Gilly, who is a national observer at IAM, describes her journey with the UK’s leading road safety charity.
It was about 1970 or so, and my dad had a business in Sunbury; I got myself a job working there and had driven there from Fleet; on one bit of road, a police officer stepped out with a speeding gun, so I pulled over, and he told me I was speeding. I could not believe I had done that. So, I took the advanced driving test, and I did it barefoot; that was flower power back in the 1970s, and I felt the car better with my bare feet than with shoes.
When I met my husband in the 80s, he was also an advanced motorist, but it wasn't until we lived together in Basingstoke and attended the Popley festival that we came across an advanced drivers' group and met Geoff Banks. He was instrumental in setting up the Basingstoke group, he told us he thought we would make very good observers, so that’s where the training began.
Over the last few decades, I’ve noticed that more people driving too quickly, but I'm still on the road and still driving as I always have, so it doesn’t bother me. Being an observer has helped me maintain the aspect of driving that I find crucial, which is heightened observation.
No, it’s about independence for me. Years ago, Chris and I looked at each other and said, "Are we going to get a bus pass?”, and I thought Why would I get a bus pass? I don't mind getting a senior rail card because I’ll no doubt need to take the train but not the bus. It doesn’t worry me to get in the car and drive; I look forward to it.
The biggest reward for me as an observer is the joy of being able to give someone the knowledge and skills to be safer driver, as well as getting them to enjoy and love what driving has to offer. There have been a few drivers that have come my way that have been a bit scared and not very confident, and I just like to instil in them the love of driving that I have and to look at it as a bit of an adventure to go from A to B and do it safely.
Absolutely, everybody could pick up hints and tips that make them safer on the roads. I love the fact that you can tell someone to wind the window down and listen as they drive through a country lane. You might hear something that you can’t see, or smell something that makes you think something is happening. It makes you more aware of your surroundings, and it could be a lifesaver for many drivers.
To find out more about IAM RoadSmart’s advanced courses, visit www.iamroadsmart.com/courses