Last June I contacted IAM RoadSmart to take a free advanced taster drive. My observer, Ash, relaxed me straight away and explained there were no expectations I just had to drive how I do normally and he would assess how I had driven.
I have always prided myself on my driving, whether it is two wheels or four, having driven all over the world including through jungles, deserts open highway – if it had wheels and an engine I would give it a go! Don't get me wrong, I’ve had the odd mishap, but I was always able to look back and say why it had happened. One or two were my fault where I recognise I could have done things better and, potentially, avoided it.
We pulled back into the carpark after what seemed ten minutes but had been just under an hour, Ash commended my driving, picked up a couple of things where improvements could be made and thanked me for such a pleasant drive!
The next stage was to go online and sign up to the Advanced Driver Course, I got the feeling of 'what have I let myself in for'.
Just a few days after subscribing the book arrived. It was easy to understand, logically set out with a few acronyms that I’d have to learn, but on the whole good common sense driving. Some discipline was needed around junctions and roundabouts: thinking about what I had taken for granted over the years and analysing a little more as to why, what if and how?
Luckily Ash works 5 minutes from me, so we have agreed that Monday lunchtimes are now given over to Advanced Driving! Starting with our cockpit drill, we move off through the city on to quite a mixture of roads: narrow, wide, single track (with an abandoned car left in the road) opposing traffic in conflict, speed limit changes coming thick and fast as Ash guides me around the chosen route. Towards the end of our drive Ash tells me the next step, the acronyms, spoken thoughts and some habits that 36 years of driving have embedded in me that need to change! Ash is the consummate professional and commends me on the way I have driven; he is happy with what he has seen but adds where I need to make improvement.
A wet and dreary lunchtime (British Summer!) gets us out among the traffic. I have read the book and looked at the list of phrases for my spoken thoughts! We make our way to the upper part of the city, moving around larger vehicles giving them space as they need, very quickly into a narrow village road, onto back lanes where passing places are an option, looking ahead Ash encourages me to look and think further ahead than I have previously, bringing up relevant spoken thoughts clearly shows I am trying to anticipate anything and everything: what if, what if what if – options! Always more options than getting involved in someone else's mistake, or worse, collision. The rain tries to spoil the drive but fails, I mentioned the road surface: wet, greasy and then back to dry as I progressed. Good positive drive, Ash gives me more to think about for the next Monday lunchtime. I manage to drop my main bad habit of braking whilst changing down. Spoken thoughts as I drive.
Check drive with a Master Driver! Kelvin takes us out on rural roads in the south of the County. “IPSGA” is clearly taking over my driving, some minor habits are hard to break but I only applied the brakes once whilst changing down! The flow of driving is getting better, I often prided myself that I could almost see another driver was potentially going to become a conflict; it seems there shouldn’t be any surprises if I use the system. My spoken thoughts are covering everything I see, the small, the slight, the insignificant and all of the bigger stuff too – information highway!
A new route today, with awkward junctions that will challenge any driver. Work load is going up. Finessing the drive, using all the lessons so far to smooth out the ride. Nothing is a surprise or difficult. Braking points identified, sometimes too early. Getting there!
Late September and everything is falling into line, a couple of hesitations, gear change timing. Possibly over thinking ahead of myself. Apply the system!
Everything seems to have fallen into place, practice this whilst I'm driving every time. Whilst I would have found the level Ash expects of me hard in the early days, this is now with ease, feels natural and more relaxing!
I met my examiner, Andy, in Morton and set off on what became the most enjoyable driving test I have encountered! Pointing out skid marks on the road, looking long, making progress, anticipating but not assuming. The one and a half hours flew by. Andy's words “Congratulations! Good verbal understanding of HTBaBD, HC & RC. Excellent commentary.
Great observational links, e.g. noting skid marks prior to bends and farm entrances. Your easy joining of the A1 kept you in lane 1 when (to be fair a VERY early) change to lane 2 would have prevented a slight loss of progress when a stationary car emerged from n/s minor junction and you were baulked by 2 vans slowly approaching from behind in lane 2. And that is all I can say! You were consistently Safe, systematic, smooth and made progress where appropriate. You would make an excellent candidate for the Masters programme. Well done!”
The whole experience was a pleasure. I thought I was a fairly good driver, without sounding arrogant given my experience and the work I do. That said, this has opened up a whole new driving style for me and cleaned out a couple of bad habits that I was not aware of. The only thing I question is, why did I not do this years ago? Thank you IAM RoadSmart, Ash, Kelvin and Andy for taking me through a better way to drive.
To find out more about the free advanced taster drive or Advanced Driver Course, visit www.iamroadsmart.com/groups/lincolnam