I passed my driving test aged 21, just two days before embarking on my career as a teacher. After finishing university, I needed to learn to drive quickly, so my lessons took place over the space of just one month. When driving to and from work on a daily basis, I soon discovered that I wasn’t at all confident in my abilities and felt I could do more to ensure my safety and that of others on the road. In addition to this, my job presented the possibility of driving children to and from school events, so I knew that my driving needed to improve.
I was already aware of IAM RoadSmart through my boyfriend who is an observer at IAM Lincolnshire and I followed their updates on Twitter. When I discussed my concerns with him, he quickly suggested I take an Advanced Driver Course, so I signed up! My observed drives were soon arranged and over the course of 10 sessions, my confidence improved dramatically making me feel much safer when driving. My observer identified my development areas quickly and challenged me more with each drive – I worked through the course handbook to develop my theory and tried to put it into practice whenever I was behind the wheel. “Plan to stop, look to go”, limit points and spoken thoughts soon became second nature (although spoken thought did take a while!). Before I knew it, something unexpected happened; I found myself enjoying driving. I knew that I was driving well and felt confident that any passengers, including children, would have a safe and comfortable journey with me.
I completed my advanced driving test at the start of 2020 and was pleased to pass with a F1RST. I was really nervous before my test, but my examiner was so encouraging and assured me I could treat the drive as any other I’d have with my observer – a demonstration of my abilities. After my drive, he recommended that I continue my IAM RoadSmart journey by becoming an observer for the Lincolnshire group and so I spoke to them about getting involved. After some initial training and the surprise of a global pandemic, I was ready to begin my new role for IAM Lincolnshire. Becoming an observer in our current climate has certainly been a challenge, but something that I am really enjoying. I am currently coaching two under 25 drivers as part of IAM Lincolnshire’s Young Driver’s Scheme with the Police and Crime Commissioner. It’s rewarding to be able to pass on some of the skills I developed during the course to others who are in a similar situation to the one I was recently in. It’s great to be working with the other dedicated observers at IAM Lincolnshire and I know first-hand the courses we deliver make a real difference to those who take them.
I’m looking forward to helping more drivers become safer and more confident on the roads in the future. It is not something I ever imagined I would be doing five years ago, but it’s certainly one of my most rewarding experiences. I feel positive about making an impact as a young female observer and would encourage other young drivers who are taking the course to do the same – if you’re able to make some spare time to dedicate to observing, you’ll find it really worthwhile.
By Gemma Melhuish