Thursday, 26 April 2012
Feature: Institute of Advanced Motorists calls for younger drivers to sharpen their skills
WHY would I need to sharpen up my skills behind the wheel when - being Champion motoring correspondent - I'm already a brilliant driver anyway?
That's the exactly the sort of question the Institute of Advanced Motorists are hoping younger drivers will be able to answer for themselves when the driving organisation launches it next round of Skills For Life courses next month, which they're keen for younger motorists in particular to take up. Young male drivers - like me - are particularly at risk because we naturally think we're brilliant, even though the accident statistics and the cripplingly expensive insurance shows that isn't the case. Naturally, an advanced driving course isn't going to make you the next Sebastian Loeb but it will make a difference. I should know, because I've done it.
Simon Best, the organisation's chief executive said: “Young male drivers suffer from a lethal combination of overconfidence and inexperience. They don’t need curfews and other restrictions on their driving; they need to practice and gain driving experience safely.
"There are many paying thousands of pounds a year in insurance and killing themselves. The solution to this problem is to link driver training and insurance discounts."
If you like driving you'll like the Skills For Life course - the observers know you can already drive, so it's all about honing your techniques and learning to spot the hazards early, so you can react to them nice and early with the need to panic. Best of all, there's absolutely no L-plates involved! I started my course in January and successfully passed the advanced driving test at the end earlier this month, so expect to venture out under the expert eye of a volunteer observer once a week or so, where they'll suggest techniques you can use to make your drive a smoother and safer one. Once you've done that, you take a senior observer out for a drive to show them how brilliant you are, and once you've managed that you take out a Class One police driver - in my case, a serving road traffic officer - and see if you can impress them as well. It's not easy, but it is rewarding when you get it right.
The course costs £139 which I know is a lot of money when you're young and skint but consider this; that's not only a lot cheaper than doing normal lessons on L-plates and doing the standard driving test, but the IAM operate their own insurance scheme which usually gives those who pass the test the chance to get cheaper premiums which recognise you're doing something to make yourself a bit safer. Because IAM graduates are 70% less likely to have a crash, they can afford to knock the price down a bit.
For a course that's focused around safety I actually really enjoyed doing it, because I really enjoy driving, but I reckon it'll pay itself off several times over in the accidents I don't have. The course might cost £139 but you can't put a price on staying safe.
Sefton and West Lancashire residents can take advantage of the next round of Skills For Life Courses, which start on Monday, May 14. For more information about the course, which costs £139, contact Ray Woods on 01704 538595.