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Driving with an observer
11:26am Friday 8th June 2012 in Features
Motoring Editor STEVE NELSON continues his journey towards the Advanced Driving Test with an initial assessment of his driving skills.
THE first step on the journey towards earning my Advanced Driver spurs began in the office car park.
Senior observer Alan Fisher had been chosen to guide me through the first stage, a two-hour driver assessment, and I confess to feeling slightly nervous as we settled into our seats.
The last time my driving had been assessed with such thoroughness was at the tender age of 19 – and now I was putting myself through a very thorough analysis at the age of 55. I wondered how many bad habits I had acquired over the years.
Alan was quick to mention pluspoints at the earliest opportunity, even noticing how I had parked the car for ease of exit.
In common with a learner-driver, everything from the way I held the steering wheel to my observations of potential hazards was being noted.
As we headed out on to the open road, Alan occasionally offered advice on positioning, speed (“break the speed limit and you fail”), approaches to junctions and roundabouts and road signs (“there are too many”).
We took the twistiest roads he could find – obvious old favourites – and between relaxed conversation offered tricks-of-thetrade advice to get the best out of my driving.
It was all going rather well and, despite a couple of misinterpreted instructions, I was starting to enjoy the challenge. But I was still conscious of the fact that Alan was watching me like a hawk and he would not miss a trick.
At the end of this first test, I turned to Alan for his thoughts.
“You’re exceptionally good,” he enthused as he brought out the assessment report sheet and started to allot my marks.
There are four grades available in each of the 20 categories contained in the Driver Assessment – Advanced Standard, More Guidance, Average and Needs Development – and I was delighted to see that Alan had placed me in the top two grades for all of the 18 categories that applied that day (I was driving an automatic, so the clutch control and use of gears categories were not applicable).
Indeed, I was at the Advanced Standard in half of the categories.
An encouraging start, and I was already looking forward to our next session.
• Institute of Advanced Motorists: iam.org.uk
• The York Group of Advanced Motorists:yorkadvanced motorists.co.uk
You can phone group secretary Clive Tong on 07710 683501 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or the group chairman, Mike Naylor, on 01904 796350 or 07724 811126
• The IAM Skill for Life package costs £139
IAM driving tip: Swings and roundabouts
ROAD safety charity the IAM is offering tips from Britain’s top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week he is advising on avoiding problems at roundabouts.
• Information: Look well ahead; check your mirrors so that you know what other traffic there is around you. Give any signals in plenty of time. Try and identify a gap in the traffic before you reach the roundabout, but keep an eye on the car in front – they may not go for the gap you would.
• Position: Approach the roundabout according to which exit you’re taking. Keep to the left lane to turn left or go straight and the right lane when taking an exit on the right. Watch for any road markings guiding you and try to give other vehicles plenty of space.
• Speed: Slow down smoothly to a speed that’s appropriate for the roundabout, taking into account the position of other road users.
• Gears: Once you’re at the right speed, and before turning, select the correct gear. Do a final mirror check, especially the mirror on the side you are turning towards.
• Accelerate: At a roundabout choose a gap in the traffic and accelerate smoothly into it – the same applies to any other junction.
To help drivers stay safe and enjoy their driving this summer, the IAM has a new website, drivingadvice.org.uk, with traffic updates, weather forecasts, and driving tips, including: driving abroad, cycling, coping with Olympic congestion, and loading the car for a long journey.