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Getting rid of the bad habits
11:59am Friday 22nd June 2012 in Features
Motoring Editor STEVE NELSON tries to kick some bad habits as he sets out on the next leg of his journey to becoming an advanced driver OLD habits die hard, they say.
How true that is, when it comes to driving.
Six sessions into my Skill for Life package with the Institute of Advanced Motorists in York, and I have mastered several changes in technique. But others are proving stubborn to get right.
After coming to a halt at a set of traffic lights, assessor Neil Harrison – one of the longestserving members of the York group – was quick to note that I was slotting the gear stick into neutral and then applying the handbrake.
“No, it’s handbrake first, then put it in neutral. Then reverse that procedure when you pull off,” he said. It took about another four attempts before it finally stuck in my mind, and now it’s second nature.
It’s a small point, I know, but I am at the stage now where I am addressing the finer points as well as demonstrating all that is good about my technique.
Steering, and making progress consistent with safety, has proved to be of little worry.
But using only the brake, combined with deceleration, when I need to reduce speed proved harder to master. Like many other drivers, I had grown used to using a lower gear to reduce speed.
Smooth and progressive braking is essential, whereas slipping the clutch or coasting is strictly offbounds.
I am nearing the time when I enrol for the IAM Advanced Driving Test and enjoying not only my time behind the wheel with the clutch of assessors but also those journeys when I am able to bring into play all that I have learned so far.
Neil is keen to check my ability to reverse round a corner (which I do without comment), braketesting (two attempts, and I get it right at the second time of asking) and parallel parking (we cannot find a suitable space in very busy Malton).
He also brings commentary into the equation. This involves the driver observing not only potential hazards close by but also reading the road in the distance – an essential part of becoming an advanced driver – and giving a running commentary on the situation and how you are adapting your driving to the changing environment.
Neil accompanied me for two sessions, and he did not miss a trick. A stickler for getting techniques right, he was reluctant to improve my marks until he was absolutely sure that his advice had been taken on board.
At one point I had to pick up my mother-in-law, a non-driver, who sat silently in the rear passenger seat until the end of the session.
As Neil left the car, she leaned forward and said: “He’s a lovely man.”
Yes, I replied, a nice chap who doesn’t miss a trick.
Nevertheless, Neil was pleased with my progress and willing to improve my marks in several areas.
The IAM package
EVERY Skill for Life course now comes with 12 months’ free RAC roadside and recovery cover, plus:
• An initial assessment with an IAM voluntary observer from your local IAM group.
• As many on-road drives with an IAM Observer as you require to achieve “test ready” status.
• How To Be A Better Driver guidebook.
• Membership of your local IAM group, with invitations to group events.
• Full preparation for your Advanced Driving Test.
• Your Advanced Test with a qualified examiner.
• An IAM Advanced Driving Certificate on passing the test.
• Twelve-month membership of the national IAM, which includes the award-winning membership magazine.
Advanced Driving; access to a host of membership benefits, privileges and discounts; special insurance discounts and policy cover once you have passed.
The Skill for Life package costs £139.
• DO you want to improve your driving?
Information about the IAM Advanced Driving Test can be found at iam.org.uk or yorkadvanced motorists.co.uk
Alternatively, contact the York group secretary, Clive Tong, on 07710 683501 or email him at yorkgroup email@example.com