Driving - a personal story
This is probably a fairly classic tale, but I hope it may give encouragement to older drivers who perhaps have never considered they could become safer and more skilful at driving with the correct help and instruction.
I took my driving test 60 years ago. Although living in Surrey, I decided to learn right in the centre of London and my driving school was located just off Trafalgar Square. A challenging place to start, yes, but I thought it would pacify my parents should I ask to borrow their car at a later date, when they might well have responded, “...ah, but you have never driven in London...” It worked! Since the 1950s I have had no further professional instruction or training. I enjoyed driving my 1961 Austin Healey Sprite – the very last of the frogeyes – for 13 years but sadly had to let it go with the arrival of two small children who simply would not fit in!
On retirement from General Practice my husband, who was meticulous in all he did, trained for and passed his Advanced Test with the Institute of Advanced Motorists and continued to be a Member for 17 years, driving with care and skill until April 2016 when he died very suddenly.
Having always resisted the gentle nudging from my family to join IAM RoadSmart – my daughter, son-in-law and son having all completed the course - I decided to take this new challenge and aim for membership in memory of my husband.
So in May 2017, age 77, I started the course by attending four informative lectures with a team of very helpful instructors, watching video presentations and reading the comprehensive manual. I realised there were vastly more aspects to driving nowadays than I had learned as a teenager and it would take practice.
The next stage was to start on a number of drives in my car and I was allocated a very experienced volunteer Observer, John Watt, who patiently explained the different aspects, watching and encouraging me.I slowly began to grasp how to use the System when approaching and negotiating hazards and I practised the art of commentary driving which I found to be an excellent way of concentrating the mind on the various techniques which needed to be mastered.
We had been warned that after about the fourth drive it was quite normal to begin to doubt that you would ever be able to take in, use and give out information, find the correct road position, make sure the speed was just right, select the correct gear and use appropriate acceleration ... almost all at the same time! We were also assured that this phase would pass and over the next practice miles I felt my observation and anticipation skills had improved, I was able to “make progress” and gained confidence. It was very helpful to have a Pre-Test Assessment and I learned some more useful pointers from Iris Campbell.
On a sunny morning in October I met my Examiner, Steven, for my Test drive around the urban areas, country roads and dual carriageways of East Lothian and was delighted when he told me I had passed.
I should like to thank my Examiner Steven and Iris for their help but especially I am very grateful to my Observer John for giving me many hours of his time and his expertise which resulted in my success.
My husband had been my inspiration which led to a thoroughly enjoyable six months learning all aspects of becoming an Advanced Driver with IAM RoadSmart. Passing the Test is of course not “the end” and I look forward to continuing to improve on my skills while enjoying the art of driving.
I would definitely encourage others – of any age – to take the challenge and be rewarded by becoming a more aware and safer driver.