Thinking Drivers are Safer Drivers

Over the past twelve months, we have adopted a more interactive approach in all our courses. The aim is to develop the “Thinking Driver”, those who realise that for them and other road users to be safe, in addition to driving well themselves, they need to learn to anticipate the likely actions or reactions of other road users. To do this demands their total concentration, constant use of the ‘System of Car Control’ and a positive approach to the changing scenario in front and around them. The IAM has invested in a structured training system, accredited by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), for the training and qualification of those wishing to be Local and National Observers. IAM Herefordshire has a higher-than-average number of Nationally Qualified Driver Trainers and of Qualified Master Drivers, the highest level of advanced driving expertise in the IAM . As a result of this degree of local skill, IAM Herefordshire has an extremely high success rate for those undertaking the advanced driving test. Three years ago, we responded to a perceived need for updating driving knowledge and a practical skills assessment for older drivers. These one-day Refreshers have proved so popular that they are now arranged four times a year across the county and the idea has been taken up nationally. By now, hundreds of older drivers have benefitted from these, countrywide. This year, we are designing a “Newer Drivers’ Day” especially for drivers who have recently passed their driving test and now want to develop their skills to meet today’s challenges, in particular driving on motorways, in bad weather - and with friends in the car!
This will also be really helpful if you have not had to drive regularly for some time, but now, perhaps due to an accident, a change of circumstances or new lifestyle, need to build confidence and independence.ys, in bad weather, crowded streets and, of course, staying out of trouble! We are also planning to extend our range of courses, including:- Confidence-building Day, for those less comfortable with driving, newly-qualified or those who haven’t been trained recently Family Challenge Day ‘Who’s the Best Driver in your Family?’ Everyone looking to improve their driving skills further will find a friendly, enthusiastic and highly-skilled team, eager to help them achieve their goal.

IAM Herefordshire Advanced Learning Process

When I first started as a presenter on the Safer Driving ”Advanced Driving” courses run by the group, it was simply to deliver a prepared PowerPoint presentation on ‘Cornering’. Having delivered it, I took the liberty of revising it to more readily suit my style for the next time, and, as my confidence and range of presentations grew, I began preparing more subjects in similar vein. This continued with able assistance from Kath Watts, until a few years ago, when we felt it needed a complete rethink. ‘Think’ is the key word, because what we were really trying to get across was that, to be a better, safer driver, you have to think about the ‘what if?’ and the ‘why?’.  To pass the ‘L’ test, you simply have to show that you are in mechanical control of the vehicle; have sufficient knowledge of the Highway Code, and a basic understanding of risk. Having passed, you are then expected to ‘gain experience’. But experience of what?! It is estimated that 80% of drivers have barely progressed in the safety of their driving since they took their basic test. Many of them start driving with an amount of false confidence that makes them a positive hazard to other drivers. They have no conception of the number of times other drivers avoid their actions having a serious consequence.

Safer driving is a ‘Learning’ process

Our emphasis in our training has been to guide our Associates to recognise the thought processes essential to safer driving. To realise that, when driving, it requires all your attention. Hazards are recognised by the advanced driver virtually every second of the journey. They are assessed, processed as to degree of priority, and the brain signals the muscles to adjust the position and or speed of the car according to your desired action. And you do it again and again and again….. Like all skills, Safer Driving at an advanced level has to be understood first and then practised regularly. It is no good reading all the knowledge, unless you put it into practice and develop it until it becomes second nature, a series of unconscious actions.

Relaxed, confident and enjoyable driving

The truly advanced driver is relaxed, confident - and enjoys driving! That is what we aim to communicate to our Associates, so our ‘’Training’ sessions have become much more interactive. We pose questions aimed at getting participants to think through what they should do; we give exercises that show the importance of good observation, good analysis of risk and how to manage it, how to be in control of your driving environment. This carries on in the car, where the In-car Trainers pose questions about their actions, in a positive attempt to get the Associate to understand the importance of reasoned thinking. Not every driver, even when the purpose and reasoning behind these skills are explained, will reach the level of the IAM Advanced test, but they will definitely be more ‘advanced’ as a driver than they were when they started- and our primary aim after all, is to make sure people are safer, better drivers. We get a tremendous ‘buzz’ from helping drivers of all ages achieve a higher level of skills and as they progress, I know that everyone around them will be safer, too. David Williams, Chief Observer For more details, ring David on 01981 580382 or email
IAM Herefordshire "Safer Driving" Day

Why do we need to drive even more safely?

Over the last 60 years, IAM Herefordshire has witnessed dramatic changes to UK roads and driver behaviour. From the rapid progress of vehicle innovation, to increasing numbers of people on the road, changing roadside technology and new distractions in the car, keeping up to date with the constant evolution of driving has never being more important. Fundamental changes are being discussed regarding the Driving Test, the most significant being:- DVSA (Driving and Vehicles Standards Agency) are considering radical changes to the driving test, reflecting modern day conditions, some of which might confuse drivers - and other road users. For instance, the new L-Test aims to take account of road turns, using sat-navs and other issues affecting our everyday driving. Safety: huge strides have been made in recent years in the safety features of vehicles. Unfortunately this has not been matched by the speed of improvement in people’s driving. On the contrary, many seem to think that they can take more risks because of a belief that those safety features will protect them.
Though the downward trend of collisions is encouraging, the following currently published figures remind us in no uncertain terms of the appalling waste of life:- Fatalities on motorways increased by 14% from 88 to 100 Vans and LGVs fatalities increased by 12% from 33 to 37 Motorcycle fatalities on motorways increased by 250% from 4 to 14 Child pedestrian fatalities increased by 30% from 20 to 26 Killed and serious injuries for all road users in deprived areas increased by 5% [Stats from IAM Press office September 2014] So, in the interests of safety for ourselves, our family and other road users, we have no choice but to become safer drivers.

Not just improved skills - a new level of confidence

David Williams, Chief Observer

Think about it. How far along the road are you, right now?

When you’ve rated where you are, think about this; the majority of drivers rate themselves about 20% better than they actually are . . . .  
I donít feel as confident as I used to. Traffic conditions and other traffic worry me. Help! Iíve been driving for years, but havenít been tested since I passed my test. I need to get up to date before anything serious happens. Iíve had driver training and, so far, have stayed clear of major accidents. However, the traffic has got much worse, so I need to update my skills I think Iím a careful driver, but I know I could improve if I got some better training IAM Herefordshire is a local charity affiliated to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). Registered Charity No: 1049679Email Website IAM Herefordshire "Safer Driving" Day