Most people can seemingly remember where they were or what they were doing when, for example, the news broke that John F Kennedy had been assassinated, when England won the World Cup, when Princess Diana died or when the twin towers where hit on 9/11. Does the 16th March 2020 hold any significance for you?
A week earlier I had chaired our monthly Group Executive Committee Meeting, where the subject of Corona virus had been discussed. At that time there was nothing to suggest we needed to take any significant action other than perhaps spacing chairs out at our forthcoming Associates Course. Six days later I was writing to our membership telling them that all meetings, courses and events were cancelled.
Little did I know that this would be the first of five such communications to our membership, in addition to those included our bi-monthly magazine, The Link, which we have continued publishing and distributing throughout. It has been important to maintain communication with the membership and emails I have received in return have been grateful for the periodic updates on what was happening within the group.
The pandemic has presented the group with many issues. The committee are now all adept at Zoom, through which we have maintained regular contact and held our monthly meetings. We have had to postpone our AGM (which we still must resolve), and there are financial implications for the group through a reduction in our income from associates and our other activities.
As the government restrictions were eased, COVID-19 re-start guidance was issued in early July, allowing a gradual ramp up of on-road activity. There are many considerations around us as a group resuming our advanced driving courses, not least of which is that some associates, observers and examiners are hesitant about returning to in-car course delivery and testing. The safety of all our members, observers, associates (and examiners) is paramount and our course activities can only resume when individuals feel it is safe to do so, according to their own circumstances. At our July Executive Meeting it was decided to initially poll our observers to understand how many might be willing and able to resume observing activities in August, September or later.
Due to a health issue, I am not personally prepared to re-start observing yet, but I had in mind that given our observer profile we might get a 40 per cent uptake. I was therefore more than pleasantly surprised and pleased that in responding to the poll, some 61 per cent of our observers felt able to resume in either August or September. As a result, we have been phasing the re-start of our observing activities from early August and, as with our observers, this will of course be dependent on our associates feeling able to resume their advanced driving journey. We are looking to initially prioritize those associates who were part way through their learning at the time of lock down, following on with those who would have been on our April and July courses, but have not yet started. Under normal circumstance we run four associate courses each year.
It will clearly take some time to catch up with the backlog, and there are several issues we must overcome. For example, we must provide specific PPE for all our active observers. IAM RoadSmart has confirmed that this is a legitimate use of group funds, but this is a significant expense. We are also currently unable to host our classroom sessions for each new associate intake, so going forward will be reliant on our observers to run through the material we would usually cover, and for which we will be using recently released new additional presentation materials that can be used as part of the early welcome and introduction to advanced driving. These are high quality presentations, which include multi-media content.
So, as our observers start to get back to what they love doing, following the guidelines issued, and with associates keen to pick up where they left off, we can once again start to improve road safety, boost driver confidence and help reduce travel stress.
By Mike Hall - Chairman Bristol Advanced Motorists