Bob Natton and the Magnificent Emergency STOP!

Blog post posted on 21/01/22 |
Members Submission
By Bob Natton- Cardiff Group Of Advanced Motorists

My love of driving stemmed from me always being interested in motor vehicles from a young boy, more so when I was fifteen and driving an agricultural tractor on private farmland. But it was a burgundy Vauxhall Cavalier SRI with Wolfrace alloy wheels (pictured below) which stole my heart, a rally injected front wheel drive car with superb fuel efficiency and stunning performance.

                         vauxhall cavaller bob no number

Having such a strong affiliation with cars, it was only right to do my driving test. 

So in 1960 I did so. However, I got off to a shaky start. As I started off from a side road and half-way out, turning right onto the main road, the engine cut out. Hand brake on, into neutral and ignition off. The Examiner said that if this kept happening the test would be aborted. I explained in a voice as calm as possible that the car had been serviced two days before and the carburettor had now flooded. I turned the ignition on; the engine burst into life with a cloud of exhaust fumes behind and off we went to a successful test. Not good for the environment, but a means to an end!! But it wasn’t at this point I started thinking about advanced driving lessons and joining IAM

I made the decision to join IAM as I once had to have a Class A Police driver as a passenger in my car on a social round trip of about 80 miles. I felt the journey went well, but my ego was somewhat shattered when we arrived back home. He was not impressed with my driving! He suggested I undertake a period of instruction and take the IAM road test. So I did so, and perhaps, this saved my life.

Fast Forwarding to the day of my IAM test (a day I remember well). It was 1971 and I was taking my 848cc Mini (the same car I had on my wedding day, pictured above). I was driving along a narrow country road with very high hedges when, negotiating a tight right-hand bend, a Brewers lorry came into view. It was travelling towards me, faster than appropriate, taking up the width of the road. My car was brought smartly to a controlled stop, although stomachs retched! The Brewers lorry stopped a few feet from the front of my car. Checking my rear-view mirror I reversed to a passing place, luckily there was no other traffic about. The lorry passed by, and I proceeded with the test. The examiner said "Mr. Natton I shall not be asking you to carry out ANOTHER emergency stop during the test". I successfully passed. Observation, Hazards, Anticipation.

Even on one of my most memorable journeys I had to stay vigilant and abide by the three key pillars of safe and good driving ‘Observation, Hazards, Anticipation’. As I will explain below. 

On one of my most memorable journeys, I was spending a week with my Father in the mid 60’s just south of Newbury. He owned a 3.4 automatic Jaguar saloon and on this day he decided to go to the South coast. I was driving, with my Father in the front passenger seat and three young passengers in the back. It was a lovely sunny day, with good driving conditions. The straight road in question reached out in front of us for some distance. We caught up with three cars, obviously travelling in convoy at about 50mph. Dad leant over towards me, looked up the road and said "Put your foot down Robert and go past". I noticed undulations in the road ahead, so was not going to overtake. I saw a glint of sun on glass or metal go into the dip, so it seemed a car travelling towards us had just disappeared from sight. "Kick down Robert and pass these cars" came Dad's voice. I declined, explaining my reason for holding back and, with that, a white sports car came out of the dip and shot past us at a very fast speed. Had I pulled out to overtake there would have been carnage resulting from a head-on impact at well over 100mph. Not a lot said in the car for a while! Observation, Hazards, Anticipation. These are some of the important aspects of good driving.

I would say that IAM RoadSmart has bettered my driving experience through me appreciating the joy of driving safely. The best part about being a member over these 50 years has been the companionship with like-minded drivers who show, by example, the need to behave correctly on the roads for the benefit of ALL Road Users.

So I would like to say thank you to IAM, as I recently had the great pleasure of receiving a Certificate and gold windscreen sticker representing 50 years membership with them. The badge is proudly on display and I and the Cardiff group will continue to drive in that safe, controlled manner that keeps all of us on the road so safe.