Reem Ahmed already considered herself an experienced driver. She’s a sports car enthusiast with two Toyota MR2s – and is a member of the MR2 Club. She’s also the proud owner of a Jaguar F-TYPE and a member of Sports Cars UK.
Despite this, she had considered becoming an IAM RoadSmart Advanced Driver for some time. Having passed her test in the late 1980s and now doing a lot of day-to-day driving. “I wanted to brush up my driving skills and ensure I’d not got into bad habits,” says Reem. However, it was aquaplaning on the M1 at low speed that stretched her driving skills. It also finally prompted her to book the course.
“I play poker and was driving home late one night from a game. The road was quiet, but it had been raining very heavily. And while the rain had stopped, the road was still really wet.
“I started to overtake a coach, but its tyres must have been pushing out so much water that as I drew parallel with it, my car aquaplaned. It literally seemed to turn into a ‘hovercraft’ and the front end began to turn to the right. I thought I was going to hit the central reservation.”
Reem wasn’t speeding, estimating that she was driving at around 55 mph when her car began to aquaplane.
The tyres settled back onto the road and Reem had control again. However, within a few seconds, the car began to aquaplane again, this time with its front end towards the coach. “I looked up and could see the people asleep, and the driver, who hadn’t seen me. I thought I was going to hit the coach. But my instinct was to keep some acceleration and not to break or try to steer. Instead, just wait for the car to settle onto the road again. My heart rate must have been about 200 bpm and time just seemed to slow down.”
Reem finally got home at 4 am. She was relieved to be in one piece and now determined to do some Advanced Driver training. “While I knew I’d done everything right, I realised I was doing a lot more driving. So a skills course would be good to be better prepared if anything similar happened in the future. And that’s what brought me to IAM RoadSmart.”
From signing up to go out in her own car with an IAM RoadSmart Observer. She explains that the first session or two is for the driver and the Observer to get to know each other. It's also for the Observer to fully assess driving style and ability. “By the third session the Observer begins to get a bit more thorough, and perhaps more nit-picking on scoring, marking you down for something they might have let go in the first session,” she says.
After her observed sessions it was time to book her test. “I knew that my tester was a retired policeman, so his driving abilities and standards would be extremely high. You are assessed in your own car and expected to show your awareness, knowledge and understanding of your car. This includes its mechanics, engine size and what it can and cannot do. They also like to have a little bit of history. Including why you’re there and what you’d like to get out of your experience.
“I told him I’d passed my test in the late 80s and that I wanted to ensure I was safe. That I’d aquaplaned and wanted to know what I should have done if I’d skidded. I wasn’t nervous, but I was anxious because I wanted to score well.”
In fact, Reem did so well that she scored 100% on every part of her test. “I was chuffed to bits and that gave me the confidence to become a regional, and then national Observer. I now take pleasure in bringing on other people’s driving skills and giving something back,” she says.
This summer, driving her Jaguar F-Type, she joined a convoy of 22 cars and 35 people as part of a cross-Europe road trip organised by Sports Cars UK.
The 2000-mile journey started with a crossing from Hull to Rotterdam and then a drive spanning nine countries. Including Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France.
“The club organised it for everyone, including planning the routes, lunch, and fuel stops. Each section of the drive was emailed to us in advance. We were split into three groups and drove in a convoy. Meeting each day for lunch and staying connected via radios.
“The drive took us on some very scenic roads. Some of the mountain passes were beautiful and we had a lot of fun in the tunnels. We were really able to play with our cars, particularly on the Germany autobahn when we were able to do some very high speeds.” Though pointing out that the German autobahns they took on their trip were more similar to UK A-roads than the wide, straight motorway-style routes Reem had imagined.
One key difference between European drivers and those in the UK, says Reem, is the fact that on the continent, drivers think more for themselves. They are prompted by far less signage compared to British roads. Another factor that made Reem’s Advanced Driving skills even more useful.
“The Advanced Driver course taught me to really observe the road. I believe I now see everything, whereas before I might have seen things, but not registered them. It also taught me how to corner better. Another bonus on a trip that included a lot of winding mountain passes. And gave me the confidence to take my son with me.”
Whether you’re planning a similar, long-distance journey across Europe, or driving closer to home, Reem recommends the IAM RoadSmart Advanced Driver course. Particularly if you passed your test some time ago and want to ensure your skills are really as honed as you think they are.
Meanwhile, Reem has also been invited to take IAM RoadSmart’s Masters course…we’ll keep you posted on her progress!
You can find out more at IAM RoadSmart Advanced Driver