You may recall that I wrote a blog in December reflecting on my step-daughter’s crash late at night on the M1 which resulted in her Mini being written off. Not a pleasant phone call to take, I can assure you!
The good news is that physically she is now pretty much mended (the finger I swore couldn’t be broken is now mended, as are her ribs) but mentally the experience had made an already apprehensive driver even more cautious.
I am delighted to report that our very own head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman, volunteered to spend some time with her passing on the benefits of his skills and experience. So off he trotted to Leicester and spent 4 hours as co-pilot in her replacement Mini. Thankfully he reported back that she is as safe as houses – however there were a few important lessons to be taken on board.
- Drive with eyes on full beam, looking further up the road.All of us who have undergone advanced training will recognise this but so many drivers simply stare at the tail lights right in front of them and don’t see the emerging situation.
- Motorway driving (my step-daughter’s Achilles’ heel) – whilst safe, driving at 55 mph in the left lane constantly is a recipe for monotony, stuck behind truck after truck.Richard’s advice is to change lanes when safe and clear and vary your speed.Make the drive more engaging and interactive…and in that way reduce the chance of loss of concentration.
- Learn to keep focussed on the road.My step-daughter likes to talk and it was noticeable that when deep in conversation, her driving attention decreased.This echoes the findings expressed in our recent white paper on Distracted Driving – talking on a hands-free mobile is not noticeably safer than talking on a hands-held device.It’s less of a physical issue but more the ability to keep the mind focussed.Richard taught her some techniques to help maintain concentration on the road – and I’ve made a mental note not to call her if I think she is driving!
- Be prepared for the drive.If driving late at night, be aware that eating a large meal shortly before you drive could well impact your cognitive ability.Whilst the brain will not be starved of blood/oxygen whilst your stomach digests the pizza/curry, you may well experience a blood sugar crash which at best impacts your concentration and worse still could lead to a micro-sleep.
Having spoken to my step-daughter, I think that apart from some hints and tips, the most important factor in helping her become more confident was being told by an independent expert that her driving is ok. Nothing fundamental to worry about. No need to be intimidated.
Thanks again Richard – hopefully my step-daughter is set far for many, many years of safe driving.
By Mike Quinton, IAM RoadSmart Chief Executive Officer