Wednesday, 29 March 2017

"That's not for me!" Read more about our IAM Driving Days... written by the original Miss Daisy!

Guest blog by Gaye Bramley, Earl Shilton Afternoon WI, Leicestershire & Rutland Federation

Your WI has received the flyer entitled Are You a Confident driver? The WI and IAM RoadSmart are joining forces to develop women's driving skills. How many of you I wonder immediately say "that's not for me"!  Why?
·         I'm too old - Wrong!  I was born during the war.
·         I couldn't possibly do that - Wrong!  I was told many years ago there is no such word as can't, and until you try you don't know; (the IAM also offer a Mature Driver's Assessment which is done on a fairly informal basis, you can even take a friend with you, and they say that around 90% of older drivers assessed only need some minor guidance).
·         I don't need to do that - Wrong!  Don't forget we are never too old to learn and things have probably changed if, like me, you passed your test some 50 years ago.
·         They might stop me driving - Wrong!  They don't want to stop you driving, they aim to improve your driving and point you in the right direction if you need help.

I lost my husband at the end of 2015 and after some 50 years of driving a variety of vehicles, all over the country at times, I also lost my confidence in driving so I decided to sign up for the course at The British Motor Museum in Gaydon, Warwickshire last year. We were made to feel very welcome with coffee and hot croissants (breakfast was a distant memory!) and all refreshments were included in the course fee. The IAM volunteers were so friendly, and needless to say I was in good company with other WI members. Every effort was made to put us at ease. We each went out for a drive with a qualified IAM Instructor and were given a written log sheet at the end. We then had a manoeuvrability course to drive, of which I made a complete pig's ear!  After lunch we had some interesting talks on various aspects of driving, and of course in true WI tradition, tea and cakes!  There was absolutely no pressure to apply for the Advanced Driving Course but having been advised by the Instructor that he thought I would benefit from it, I decided I would, especially as there was an added incentive of a £10 discount if you signed up then!

In due course a qualified observer from my local IAM group, Bill, contacted me.  He provided me with his full details, qualifications, an email address and phone numbers- so don't worry if you don't use the internet - and I am free to contact him at any time for help.  We go out every week for an observed drive, followed by a de-brief.  You are taught to continually assess the situation; to look for hazards and potential hazards, and plan how to approach them; how to be tolerant to other road users; how to overtake safely; how to drive up to the speed limit if it is safe to do so; and how to use the road, something I'm not very good at doing at times, which has prompted my "passenger" to say GAFMO (Get a Flipping Move On!).

I have also learnt what abbreviations such as OAP stand for (no, it does NOT stand for Old Age Pensioner!) - Observation Anticipation Planning; TUG - Take Use Give; and LAD - Look Assess Decide; and the most important of all IPSGA - Information Position Speed Gear (if manual - I drive an automatic) Acceleration - the basis of all driving (I have this one blue-tacked to my dashboard to remind me!)

I have good days and bad days and at one point was ready to throw in the towel - I was told to turn left and promptly turned right amongst other things - and emailed Bill to that effect. I received a wonderful email back from him, and as a result of which I continued.  I have been accused of "Driving like Miss Daisy"- I was not amused - but it had the desired effect and we put her to bed (although she has been resurrected on occasions!)  She is now a standing joke between us and I have taken to signing my emails Miss D. I am accused of "comfort braking" which has progressed to "calendar braking" - in other words braking too often and sometimes too soon, especially on approach to bends and roundabouts, and taking too long to pull out of junctions. Bill has threatened to mark it on a calendar to see how long it takes me (I don't think he's cottoned on to "Calendar Girls" yet thank goodness!)

You also have to give a running commentary of what you see and explain what actions you are going to take and why. This really does make you concentrate on your driving, and when doing it in your head when you are on your own, it helps you concentrate instead of thinking about all the other things that need doing!

Behind all this of course is the serious message of how to be a better, and safer, driver. They see capabilities in you that you probably don't realise you have and you can ask them any questions, even if they sound daft. They also take you out for a demonstration drive and will probably scare the living daylights out of you! You learn about your car - you have to do a "cockpit drill" before you drive off including a POWDERY check  (P - enough fuel, O - oil level is OK, W - water in your radiator and windscreen washers, D - any damage to bumpers etc., E - electrics as in lights and indicators etc., R - rubber, i.e. your tyres have the legal minimum amount of tread, the pressures are correct, and the rubber on your windscreen wipers is OK, Y - is yourself and that you are feeling fit to drive; what all your controls are and how to use them to the best advantage and your seat, head rest, steering wheel and mirrors are set correctly for you and all seat belts fastened.)  At the end of the course, which can go on for up to a year if you want, you don't actually have to take your Advanced Motorists test if you really don't want to although of course you are encouraged to - I have yet to take mine!

Besides the benefit that my driving confidence has increased, and I hope improved,  I have discovered other benefits.  My general confidence has also increased and I am finding I have a more positive attitude in general and with that has come an added bonus. I am disabled and walk with a crutch and suffer pain most days. I suddenly realised recently that after a particularly enjoyable, albeit long, busy and tiring day at our County ACM, I hadn't been in any pain and I am sure this is as a direct result of me taking the plunge. So a big thank you to the WI and the IAM and not least to my observer Bill for believing in me. So go on ladies, you can do it, you never know what benefits may result. And just in case you are wondering they do have female observers but they are in a minority!

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