To mark Volunteer Week (1-7 June), guest blogger Henny Cameron writes about her work with Northampton Advanced Motorists, explaining how much she enjoys the work she does with the Group, members and local community to support road safety in her area.
It's strange, but I never think of what I do for Northampton Advanced Motorists as volunteering. I volunteer for a couple of other organisations but with the advanced motorists it is more of a way of life than volunteering. As with all volunteers in IAM RoadSmart’s local groups, I am passionate about road safety.
When I joined the group in 1983 I had no thoughts other than I wanted to improve my driving and pass the Advanced Driving test. One of the then committee members approached me to see if I would be willing to join the committee. To be honest at the time it was not something I would have looked for, but thought I would give it a go. It was a decision that has basically changed my life.
In the time I have been with Northampton Advanced motorists I have been able to do many different roles, from Associate Officer through to my newest role of Treasurer. In 1989 I was a founder member of Corby and District Group, being their first Associate Officer, then their Secretary for nine years (concurrent with being on the Northampton committee). It was with the Corby Group that I trained to be an observer, but I realised quite early on that I was not enjoying the role, and that ‘back office’ functions were more for me. That is the great thing about volunteering, if you don’t like what you are doing, you can step back and do something else. Moving home away from the Corby group’s area enabled me to channel all my energies into the Northampton Group.
Looking back over the years, I can see all the amazing, fun, and sometimes challenging, things that I have been able to do. One of the best things is seeing our members’ joy when they have passed their Advanced Test. We hold free assessment drives on the first Sunday in the month, and we often have impromptu visits from newly passed members bearing biscuits or chocolates (always welcome!!) to say thanks.
In the late 1980s our group used to provide marshals for the Lorry Driver of the Year Competition. Held on a big airfield, the top HGV drivers undertook a variety of manoeuvring tests, and this is where I realised just how good these drivers were. They were turning their vehicles in spaces in which I doubt I could turn my car.
Another event that sticks in my mind was a national motorway campaign. The police invited us to be part of their stand. All was going well, until I was approached by a driver who was very arrogant and belligerent – I can still remember the subject – tailgating. He was adamant that he could not leave space between him and the vehicle in front as ‘somebody would jump in’ so he was the victim. Whatever I did, I could not get him to consider another view, but I could also not get rid of him either. It was made worse as I could see the two police officers in the background laughing their heads off!
I really enjoy helping out at our publicity events, it is good to talk to member of the public to find out their views on how safe they feel when they are driving, and chatting about how our techniques could help make them feel safer and enjoy their driving more. At one of our publicity days in a town centre, we were offering free assessment drives. One chap was keen and wanted an assessment drive, so we sent him off with one of our observers. About 10 minutes later we were puzzled to see the observer walking back alone. Apparently they had wandered round the car park looking for his car, then he remembered he had come shopping on the bus!
We have a great group, made up of individuals from a variety of different backgrounds with different skills and views who are great fun to be with. It is great to learn from each other and do things that maybe I would not have considered or had the opportunity to do otherwise. I found my niche when I took over as newsletter editor in 2008 and since then I have developed new skills such as writing articles. I even did an online creative writing course to help me. It’s something I really enjoy doing as I can fit it around other commitments and it is great to see the newsletter evolving into the finished version.
In February our Group needed a treasurer, I stuck my hand up and am now on a steep financial learning curve – happily I love spreadsheets!!
I have met a wide variety of people and made lifelong friends through my volunteering with IAM RoadSmart and I’d encourage anyone to think about what they could do with their spare time to make a difference.