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A Brief History of Wessex Advanced Motorists

The Institute of Advanced Motorists Taunton Group was created in 1981 from a satellite of the Exeter Group. Founder Members

The Group became its own Registered Charity in 1997, changing its name to The Taunton Group of Advanced Motorists (TGAM).

Twenty years later, we now operate under our new name of Wessex Advanced Motorists (WAM) having re-branded in 2017 to reflect a significantly larger geographical coverage here in the South West following IAM RoadSmart group mergers in the region. Current Committee

During the Group’s life it has provided first class coaching and mentoring to an impressive number of drivers wishing to improve their driving standards through IAM courses to become the safest and best drivers on the UK roads. Notable test achievements

Since its formation in 1981, many have served on our Committee and to this day, our Committee Members give freely of their time to help run the Group (herewith referred to as Wessex) promoting higher driving standards and road safety in our area of responsibility.

Presidents; Chairpersons; Group Secretaries; Treasurers; Newsletter Editors

During its existence, the Group has seen many changes championed by IAM; the advanced driving course -“A Skill for Life”- was rolled out in 2004 and this created a solid foundation on which to further build advanced driving. In 2012 the long-running IAM Special Assessment was replaced by the IAM Masters, the highest civilian driver/rider qualification achievable in the UK. One of the first to pass the Masters in the South West was Andrew Griffiths, our Chairman and Chief Observer. Andrew achieved a score of 92% resulting in a distinction.

With IAM continually aiming for a professional and standardised approach to the delivery of its courses, the competency-based Observer Qualification was introduced; this was accredited by the Institute of the Motor Industry. There followed a huge transition programme covering 4 years with some 5,000 Senior Observers and Group Observers having to qualify as National Observers and Local Observers respectively, through training and testing. We completed the transition in good time and switched to delivering the new Advanced Driver Course in January 2017.

A significant change in 2016 was the re-branding of IAM to IAM RoadSmart and its newly accredited competency-based courses such as the Advanced Driver Course. This replaced the Skill for Life course.

For our Group, a very important decision was taken in early 2017 to change our name from TGAM to Wessex Advanced Motorists (WAM). The change was driven by an increase in our geographical and postcode coverage into North Devon and a previous expansion into the Yeovil area, both the result of the demise of local Groups therein. We subsequently needed to upgrade our Observer clothing, publicity material and our display equipment to reflect not just our name change but also the RoadSmart re-brand; smart new Observer polo shirts, feather flags, pull-up displays, brochures gave us a very professional look when we were out there at public events promoting higher driving standards and safer driving on our roads.

Watch this space…

Founder Members back in 1981

Julia Steer
Frank Richards
Dave Goddard
Grace England
Barry Farmer
Andy Bennett
Richard Marriott
Jackie Frankling
Ray Pearcey
Don Elsley

Current Committee

Chief Observer
Associate Coordinator
Events Coordinator
Support Officer
Membership Secretary
Newsletter Editor


Mark Stephenson
Barry Keenan
Andy Bourne
Isobel Jennings
Andrew Griffiths
Pauline Wills
Mark Stephenson
Michael Wotton
David Walton

Notable test achievements

Our first test passes in 1981 Jackie Franklin, Julia Steer, Don Elsley
Our first IAM F1RST  Rina Cameron 2011
Our first IAM Commercial  Brian Howe 2004
Our first IAM Masters Andrew Griffiths 2013
Our first IAM National Observer   Andrew Griffiths 2013
Our first IAMRS F1RST as Wessex  Paul Green 2017
Our first Fellow  David Walton 2017


Courtney Edwards OBE 1984 – 1987
Michael Pickering FCIT FBIM FRSA 1987 – 1989
Major General John Carpenter CB MBE   1989 – 2008
John Pentney 2008 – 2011
Brian Howe 2012 – 2020


David Goddard  1981 – 1983
Frank Richards 1983 – 1986
Bill Swift 1986 – 1994
John Pentney 1994 – 1999
Barry Farmer 1999 – 2002
Brian Howe 2002 – 2008
Kevin Grose 2008 – 2012
Brian Howe (acting) 2012 – 2012
Andrew Griffiths 2012 – 2021
Mark Stephenson 2021 –

Group Secretaries

Frank Henshaw 1982 – 1994
Lorna Head 1994 – 1998
Laurie Forde 1999 – 2004
Kevin Grose 2004 – 2010
Serena Lonton 2010 – 2014
David Walton 2014 – 2022
Andy Bourne 2022 –


Andy Bennet 1981 – ?
Grace England    ?    – ?
Frank Richards    ?    – 2010
Geoffrey Stoate 2011 – 2015
Isobel Jennings 2015 –

Newsletter Editors

Julia Steer (100 issues!) 1982 – 2008
John Gilbert 2008 – 2012
David Walton 2012 –