Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The IAM course

I am learning to drive, second time around.

The first time I learned to drive was London, Hanger Lane Gyratory. Good training for Bletchley High Street, where I passed some sort of test in the 1980s. But since then, I have driven everywhere in third gear, badly.

So I thought I would learn it all again. I am now sitting with an observer on a weekly basis taking the Institute of Advanced Motorists course. I pore over videos like this. Then quietly slip out to have a go at my parallel park.

I totally recommend the IAM course, if you have any type of nerdy streak, any type of compulsion to get things right, or have children rising 17 about to hit the roads and you - parent-driving-teacher - are scared witless at the thought of sitting next to them while you approach an actual roundabout.

There are just a few obstacles causing me difficulty.

Left and Right. These two are quite confusing, are they not? So when the observer says Right and you turn Left, there is an awkward moment while we all work it out.

Directions in general. When the Observer says, Follow the road to Buckingham, I think, Where the hell is Buckingham? I know we're now only 3 miles from it, and it's around here somewhere, but unless I drive at it on my normal road, I have no idea whether to turn left or right. Embarrassing. Especially when part of the course is learning to observe the road sign you just drove past.

The commentary. Advanced drivers are supposed to say things like Accelerate. Third gear. Pedestrian. Dog on lead. Mirror check. Limit level increasing. See how concise it is? I am getting the hang of it. At the moment I am more in the way of, Accelerate, ooer, are you sure? What gear am I in? Oh dear I can see a Pedestrian. Ha! They have a dog on lead. It's not going to leap into the road if it's on a lead. Unless they have an extending lead. They are downright dangerous. Does that dog look a bit sad to you? I can see them in my mirror now. Was I supposed to Give Way back then?

Driving round for an hour in the car worrying about the planet. Because, on an IAM course, you're not driving from A to B with a purpose, you're driving the route A to B for the sake of it, just in a smarty-pants way which does not end upside-down in a ditch (an incident which we passed on my second time out). I force myself to quell my worry about my extravagant use of fuel, mostly by consoling myself that my bad old ways of driving in third gear was the most wasteful I could get.

Conclusion: It's consoling, comforting, and makes you a more aware driver. As in, did you ever know those things about kerbs? I have driven past kerb sides for 30 years without ever realising they come with their own stories. So yes, an IAM course would make a great Christmas present if you're stuck* and have ever wished your fellow-driver would slow down, speed up, take that corner more precisely, miss the dog, not crash the car, or be able to tell you stories about the kerb.

*I am not an ambassador and this is not a sponsored post, I am just in the middle of starry-eyed enthusiasm.

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