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I have passed my advanced test ! What next?

Having risen ‘through the ranks’ since joining NWL&C in 2006 to become NWL&C Chief Advisor – just in time for our term Advisor to be dropped in favour of the nationally used Observer – I thought a few words about Observing might be useful in encouraging some of our Members to consider making a move in the same direction. If you enjoy Advanced Driving, I’d like to encourage you to become a part of the Group’s Observer Team as this will add a new dimension to your driving enjoyment and to your Group membership. You will be trained, supported and mentored by other members who have taken the opportunity to be more involved and to get more out of Advanced Driving.

Sorry; that’s all a bit dull, so I’ll drop faux propriety in the interest of telling it like it is. We’ve got a great bunch of Observers who get a real kick out of showing off. Even though we don’t do it too blatantly, what we say is ‘Don’t you wish you could drive like me?’ Then we turn it down a bit and dress up that message in soothing and encouraging terms so that Associates become inspired with confidence and self belief. Sometimes you find you’ve just improved their driving, but occasionally you can change their life. In my own case, although this possibly isn’t a view shared by everyone, I try to move things on from just being about road safety, and encourage people to look for opportunities to have fun behind the wheel. Here are few of my party tricks -you’ll develop your own as an Observer. I’ve only perfected these as an Observer; you never stop learning and ‘show and tell’ really keeps you up to the mark.

The High Street Game. Use acceleration sense, together with really tip-top observation, to keep moving in a busy high street. Harpenden, Radlett, Borehamwood and Berkhamsted are my favourites, but there will be one near you. Play the space in front of you like a concertina, and keep an eye on all the road users. This challenge can sometimes be paired with the Faking It Game (qv).

The Faking It Game. Picture yourself on a 2 lane urban road, wide enough for parked vehicles on both sides and a two-way stream of careful traffic passing between them. Sometimes, the oncoming driver doesn’t actually know how wide her (sorry, that should be & ‘their’) 4×4 is, and moves over to your side of the centreline because they need to leave enough room (3 inches in their mind, but 3 feet in reality) on their nearside. When you can see that there’s really enough room for you both to pass between the parked cars, move out, faking the amount of room you need. The oncoming driver will often realise they’re not as big as they first thought, and whilst remaining safe due to space/speed considerations, will move slightly to their left. Having faked your requirement, you can then move left a little into your ‘space reserve’ and traffic in both directions will proceed smoothly. It’s a bit of a variation on the ‘Staking A Claim’ way of taking control when there’s clearly enough room for two to pass.

The Nail the Limit Game. Take pride in your ability to be at the right speed when the speed limit changes down. If you’re slowing down, say, from a 40 to a 30, slow to a little above 30 so that speed continues to decrease to exactly 30 as you take up drive in 3rd gear. If you brake all the way to 30, you’ll be doing 25 by the time you’re back in gear and maintaining acceleration.

The Who’s Driving Where Game. This unfortunately relies on stereotypes, and although they’re a bit non-PC, they can be quite reliable. Leaving aside aggression-related car types -make your own mind up on that one -destinations can appeal to certain car/driver combinations. Garden Centres seem to attract mid-week, lunchtime-ish visits from well-maintained small hatchbacks. Predict that the immaculately clean (but possibly lightly scratched) Micra in front will turn horticulturally if it’s midday on Wednesday.

So, join the Observers and prepare to pass it on. It’s not teaching; it’s just sharing your expert observations about someone else’s driving, and helping them to do it better. I usually tell audiences that Advanced Driving is the most fun you can have behind the wheel, but have to confess that it would all be a bit meaningless if I just had my Certificate and turned up at the Comet once in a while.

I’m notorious for occasionally claiming (usually to a capable Associate who is nervous about their chances) that you only have to drive like an Advanced Driver for an hour and a quarter to pass your Test. I believe that if you can do it for 75 minutes, it’s how you normally drive. As an Observer, you’ll be a little more stretched, because every demonstration you give has to be at the top of your game and you’ll feel responsible for the success of your Associate. It’s their Test, though, and they rely on your guidance. (Although I’m sure the on-Test Associate who was travelling so fast in a 30 zone that they ran a red light because they couldn’t stop had been advised on speed limit observation and traffic light compliance!)

Give it some thought, and please get in touch with us, or any of the Observer Team, if you want to add another layer of interest and enjoyment to your Advanced Driving. You’ll be able to choose when you arrange your drives, and how many Associates you take on. You’ll get reimbursed for any demonstrations you give, and the Associates will always come to you. The more home locations, men, women, younger, older, working, retired etc. we have in the pool, the closer we can match our Associates’ hopes and aspirations. Remember how you held your own Advisor in such awe; that could be you in future.

We’ll be delighted to help you to make a decision, and to become what to most Members is the public face of HCNAD.

Howard Barlow
Lead Observer South


For further information, or to sign up as a trainee Observer, Click here to send a message to our Observer Manager.

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