Happy New Year!
We truly hope that you've all had a good time over the festive period and indeed you arrived at each and every destination safely too. With so much to do over the festive period it can be easy to succumb to some bad driving habits. Rushing around completing last minute Christmas shopping, searching car park after car park for a space or stuck in traffic frustrated that your not moving as fast as you want with all that needs to be done before the big day. Office parties and gathering with friends and family provide some light relief. Hopefully you took a taxi or public transport home after a few glasses of that strong Mulled Wine.
Then the new year comes. The final party of the season approaches and once again decisions on who's party your going too and how you get there has to be made. Once again we hope you all travelled safely. Then the high street sales comes along - as if you've not had enough with shopping, you find yourself struggling to find parking in town once again. The New Year also gets us all thinking about what's happened over the past 12 months and what we all like to do, see, experience and or course improve upon for the next 12 months. Stop smoking, lose weight, join a gym are just a few items on many people's New Years resolution list. But I'd put money on not many people will have 'Improve my driving skills' on that list. Yet for most people, driving is something that we do most days. It's our independence and in many cases its a life style and even a life line. Yet most people have never had any form of training or re-cap since passing the standard driving test.
Some people find as roads become busier and cars become larger, their confidence behind the wheel doesn't seem to be as good as it once was. Then you have the other end of the scale. As we grow more experienced with life and the road, we can become complacent with our skills behind the wheel. The New Year is a great time to stop and think about our skills, confidence levels and our own attitudes in our vehicles we drive today.
At the begaining of 2016 Sarah Lewis done just that. She joined the Kent Group of Advanced Motorist to address her confidence levels and was kind enough to write for us her reasons in joining and her experinces of completing the IAM Road Smart course.
I had gradually lost my confidence behind the wheel over the last couple of years, likely due to my advancing age and the ever increasing volume of vehicles on our roads, but mainly following the purchase of a rather 'sharp' little sports car. Unfortunately (or fortunately as it transpired) the new car was so quick and responsive that it had turned me into a quivering wreck very rapidly; ironic since over the 31 years since passing my driving test I had confidently driven all kinds of vehicles from vans to Land Rovers and everything in between, had driven abroad, negotiated central London at its busiest, towed a horse trailer to Normandy, driven a 7.5 ton horse lorry with 2 ton of horses behind me, 2 young daughters on board and 2 dogs. So quite why this little sports car had broken my confidence, I really don't know. When my husband Charlton jokingly told me one day that my driving was becoming like Miss Marple's and that he was going to install a basket on the front of my car, things had to change!
We saw an IAM stall at the Bearsted summer green motor show, it was a bit of a eureka moment and without hesitation I signed up with my husbands full support and encouragement. When I started the course, to pass the test was never a goal, only to regain my confidence. As time went by and I turned out (with a groan) on the regular Sunday mornings for the lecture and my observed drive, it turned into so much more. With the help of my assessors (David, David, David and Nick), I not only found my confidence returning, but I got to refine my driving skills and began to appreciate how to drive my high powered car safely, efficiently and enjoyably. With my regained confidence and growing knowledge, when the test recommendation came up, I decided to go for it. Nobody could have been more pleased than me on the handshake and congratulations from my examiner Hannah Brown on the day of my test, other than my husband who now insists I drive everywhere! He's next to be signed
My tips for success in becoming an IAM driver are: Read the book. No, really... Read the book! Learn from the lectures. Understand what they're saying and ask if you don't. Take advantage of your assessors while you have them in the confines of your car (!) - ask loads of questions and take advantage of their knowledge. Use the many online quiz sites for Highway Code questions and answers. Practice what you learn every single time you drive. Challenge yourself to be better and better with every journey - it soon becomes second nature to drop old habits in favour of new ones and you don't have to drive for miles and miles every day (my 3 mile drive to work 4 days a week was enough, together with the occasional weekend drive further afield)
Remember.....Nobody made you do this, it was your decision to sign up, so make the most of it and enjoy yourself!
Thank you to Sarah and we hope that her story inspires you to make the call and join in to become a better driver, no matter what your level of skills are behind the wheel. Find details about the IAM Road Smart course on our website.
Happy New Year and safe motoring.