Diary of a newcomer

Blog post posted on 03/10/17 |

Two years ago I started a new job which required me to travel each week as far south as Bath, as far north as Glasgow and as far east as Newcastle. This was a significant change for me and although I had always enjoyed driving, I quickly became aware that the statistical likelihood of having an accident had increased and was looking for some way to counter balance this and bring my risk back down to normal.

I had always envied my daughter who did Pass Plus after passing her test and I learned some small mnemonics from her at the time. So the time was right to look into advanced driving. My husband thought this a great idea and bought me the IAM Road Smart course for my birthday in October 2016.

I was contacted by Ian Hughes quicker than I expected. I met Ian for the first time and was immediately sure I had done the right thing. Ian’s calm and reassuring manner made me feel great about my first drive and that I would be able to pass. More importantly for me was the depth of knowledge and experience that was evident in Ian that made me realise this would change my driving for life not be just about getting a qualification. It would be part of my driving “DNA” as Ian put it.

Ian did a demonstration drive for me which really helped give me  clearer vision of what I was aiming for and I watched some of the clips I found on YouTube which helped me to picture what I wanted to achieve.

During the next couple of months I had regular drives with Ian (who has the patience of a saint I have to say). I drove in rain, frost, heavy fog, sunshine that dazzled and normal Cheshrie drizzle – and learned ways to deal as safely as possible with all.  

Some drives were good where I seemed to be able to synchronise what I was trying to achieve on that day and others made me feel I was incompetent and would never stop making mistakes and compressing the system.

No matter how I felt I really enjoyed the reflective learning session after each drive. Ian worked hard to understand my learning style and pitched the reflective learning and feedback in useful ways each time. I came to understand the learning opportunity of getting it wrong and analysing what I would do differently next time.

This worked great for me even though I really felt that I became a worse driver for a couple of weeks because I was monitoring myself so closely and being so critical I adversely affected my own confidence. Ian helped me work through this and reinforced this was a natural part of the learning cycle from which I would emerge victorious.

Then something clicked. My eyes, brain and body seemed to start working together as they should. I knew what I wanted to do at the approach to each hazard, knew the value of applying the system and I didn’t have to think about each part separately but as an integrated and smooth process.

I started to enjoy driving again and loved it even more when driving on motorways, over Denbigh Moors and lots of unknown rural roads for work. And I MEAN I enjoyed it! I felt confident I could handle the unknown and looked forward to the opportunities to practice. When I get it not quite right now, I know what I could have done to be smoother and safer and am sure my development has only now started.

I am still ashamed to realise how much of the Highway Code I had forgotten – or is it so many years ago since I passed my test that they have added a lot of new signs and rules? Things I thought I knew proved to be inaccurate and things I no longer noticed on the road gave valuable information that I had stopped seeing let alone using to plan my actions. I am truly amazed at the difference in the information I take in and use now which I was blind to before.

I want to thank Ian my observer, Nick who did my mock test and Rob who took me for the exam for their great senses of humour and skills which put you at ease and make the whole experience so enjoyable as well as beneficial.

I have spoken to so many of my friends, colleagues and family about taking the development and will continue to evangelise about it. I count myself lucky that I can compartmentalise and do not struggle to keep my opinions to myself when being a passenger. That way lies marital harmony I hope – at least until I persuade him to take the course and we no doubt will debate every nuance of driving after that!

I have passed and now start the longer journey to continue to improve. My dad told me when I was little that you have to learn how to learn before you can learn the big stuff. As always he was right and I now think I have the skills to improve how I drive for ever.

Jill Lucock