My reasons for taking the Skill for Life were both professional and personal.
During my work as Procurator Fiscal for Dumfries and Kirkcudbright, I am afraid that I saw the results of bad driving on our local roads. We have a high proportion of road traffic deaths and each case marks the waste of a life and the tragic consequences which that has for families and friends. Anything which can be done to raise the standard of driving among drivers of all ages can only help. I am convinced that the IAM approach can improve driving and help reduce the damage caused by bad driving in Dumfries and Galloway.
From a personal point of view, I realised that I had picked up a number of bad habits in 25 years of driving. The Skill for Life programme has helped me to review the way I drive and take steps to get rid of my bad habits. It has not been easy, but it has been very worthwhile.” – JohnJohn
As for the test, I was informed in advance that there would be more than one other person in the car with me; the Examiner was to be observed by no less a person then IAM’s Chief Examiner for Scotland. No pressure, then!
On the day itself the weather could not have been worse. It had already been raining on and off for weeks, but on this particular day I could have taken the test in a canoe.
I met the test Examiner and the Chief Examiner in a car park in Dumfries with the rain still hammering down. It remained pretty much like that throughout the test. Nevertheless, I kept my cool and just made the best of it. To my surprise, I felt remarkably relaxed, despite the weather conditions and the presence of the ‘Chief’ in the back seat; to be honest, I forgot he was there!
By the end of the test we were back at the car park where the Examiner wasted no time in informing me that I had passed. He briefly discussed the errors I had made during the drive and I was surprised how few there seemed to be.
Now that I am a member of IAM I am determined not only to maintain my standard of driving but to improve upon it. The opportunity to develop my driving skills in this way has been great for me; I would thoroughly recommend the IAM Skills For Life programme to anyone considering doing it. – KevinKevin
My first thought, which occurred early in the ‘observed run’ phase was that the IAM system teaches you to drive like a professional.Tony
As soon as I heard that I had been accepted onto the ‘Skill for Life’ programme, I was initially nervous because I didn’t know quite what to expect. Very soon after being accepted I had my first drive with my Observer, in this he explained the basis of the system of driving which should be used. During this drive I became aware of how many bad habits I had developed; ranging from the common crossing of arms on the steering wheel, to the rather more concerning lack of mirror checks and general observation.
I found that applying new concepts like the system, and new techniques such as sustained-rev gear changes, made my driving much more enjoyable. In every observed drive I was being coached to drive in a much safer way and I quickly decided that this was a far better way of driving. The type of safe driving coached by IAM is not checking mirrors all the time and driving excessively slowly; it is how to handle a car safely at all speeds and in all environments. In fact one of the things my coach was most keen for me to do was to drive faster and make more progress.
When the time came for my test, I was both apprehensive and excited, however the Examiner’s attitude immediately put me at ease. The test was a drive that lasted about an hour and half and all that was required was that I drive the way I had been coached. I actually enjoyed the test and was pleased that my driving was up to the required standard.”
“The ‘Skill for Life’ programme has led to me being a safer and more confident driver and I would thoroughly recommend it to people my age; it allows you to be a safer driver without making driving any less enjoyable.” – WillWill
Well I have always been interested in driving and eventually passed my test in 2007. I looked into doing pass plus but it just didn’t seem very good. When I heard about IAM I jumped at the chance. Naturally once it came nearer to the time of my first drive, I started getting a little worried ……… silly me because it was really interesting.
The good thing about only driving for a year is that I didn’t really have a chance to build up bad habits. I guess like a lot of younger drivers though you do start to think well I’ve passed my test so I must be pretty good at this driving malarky. After a few drives, it became clear that I had a lot to learn and my observer did an excellent job of setting the pace.
One thing I did notice that kept creeping up was my driving was just far too hurried. Gear changes and clutch control were an absolute nightmare and now with a little tlc my car loves me for not being quite so brutal. Smooth and fluid have replaced jerky and rushed. Another thing to note is that with practise and a little time my reversing is so much more confident that I can do it all the time. Fantastic.
In a nutshell the IAM got me more interested in driving. It has shown me how to be a better and safer driver. I also have more knowledge about the world of driving which i can retain for the future. The people that give up their time for this are brilliant and want to make a difference. I can but try and do the same. You would be mad to pass this kind of opportunity up.
IAM I salute you! – RichardRichard
The demonstration drive was interesting, and I have to admit I thought, “but I drive like this anyway, more or less”. Then came the first observed drive, and the feedback, and the uncomfortable revelation that my driving wasn’t perfect
Over the next few weeks, with infinite patience and great skill, my Observer observed, commented, guided and praised until “The System” slowly dawned, came together, made sense. Right speed, right position, right gear, right frame
of mind. Careful observation worn like a seat belt. Searching for the perfect gear change, the precise steering movement, finesse in everything. Learning to predict traffic behaviour like a motoring psychic.
When I successfully completed the test, I was really pleased, and knew I had achieved something important. But of course this was still near the bottom of the learning curve.
This is without doubt one of the best decisions I have made, and has not only improved my driving, but also my attitude in the driving seat. In a paradoxical way, greater awareness of the sometimes strange and irrational behaviour of others can actually result in a more tolerant attitude. And certainly greater insight into one’s own driving makes for a safer and more relaxed experience. – DavidInteresting - David
I was rather too cautious in the climb out of Lochmaben through the switch back bends and could have made much better progress here. Good observation and more acceptable speeds got me through Torthorwald and back to the Dumfries By-pass. At the roundabout I expected the examiner to take us along the A75 for a few more roundabouts but he didn’t and just asked to go back to the car park by the quickest route. Obviously this involved going down the narrow bit of the Lockerbie Road by Noblehill with parked vehicles everywhere but careful observation, planning and clutch control got us through here without incident; I say this now but at the time I thought “I think I’ve failed, he’s hardly said anything, barely written anything down and he hasn’t asked me any questions!” and now he was busy writing the report sheet. Maybe I wasn’t worth bothering about? However, as soon as I had completed my shut down drill, he said he wouldn’t hold me in suspense, I had passed! He complimented me on my smooth gear changes and good use of mirrors and signals when needed and a good commentary but noted a lack of progress at times with a tendency to be over cautious.”
Gradually as the weeks have passed I have subconsciously adopted the techniques, which come from being an advanced driver. Some of these techniques I have to admit I have not enjoyed or seen the necessity in adopting, for instance the continual commentary which accompanies a drive. I have struggled with this technique as my Observer will testify and came home regularly to complain about it, but in this case I seem to be wrong. I now see the benefits of commentating, as it helps keep your concentration whilst driving, which is of course essential. It may take time as I am sure you all understand since it is a difficult technique to pick up and adopt easily, but I know it will be beneficial to my driving in the long term.
Another technique essential to being an advanced driver is the planned system of driving, which once understood and memorised becomes an automatic response in dealing with any hazard. This five point system: information, position, speed, gear and acceleration, when applied, come as close as possible to a fool proof system at avoiding hazards. However, yet again I admit this system of driving has not come as naturally or as quickly to me as I had hoped, but I know it is crucial and I will continue to persevere.”
The advanced driving course for me was a eye opener; you think you are a good driver until you use “the System”. I enjoyed developing my driving skills further, being more observant spotting hazards or potential hazards as soon as possible so as to take action for the safest route – you can never leave anything to chance.
The course is a benefit to any driver and truly is “a skill for life” a highly recommended addition to your driving skills. – MarkMark
A number of reasons led to me signing up to the course. I think anyone would be crazy to rest on their laurels and say they know everything. I also hadn’t driven solidly while I was at university and found that I was not as confident in a vehicle as I should, or would like to, have been. My thoughts were “nothing ventured nothing gained”. The absolute worst that could happen would be I came out with a few new skills. Seemed like a ‘no-brainer’.
At the beginning I thought it may turn out to be a bit of a waste and that ‘oh well I’d just get my certificate and everybody would be happy’. I had the impression that the course would simply iron out bad habits such as crossing hands rather than teaching anything.
My first observed drive was obviously quite nerve-racking. No commentary necessary and no major talking from Charles made me fairly comfortable and confident thinking I was sailing through. Until we came to a stop and Charles started going through my drive with a fine tooth comb. What a shambles!
I soon realised I had a lot of work to do. The one thing with driving is it becomes second nature and we start becoming blasé about the decisions we make, changing gear, clutch etc. So now when you have to change the way you’ve been subconsciously functioning it becomes so difficult and almost unnatural. This is coming from me who is still a relative youngster so I can’t even imagine what it would be like for an older person.
Eventually things did start to kick into place, this System teaches you that the more prepared you are, the more information you can take in advance, the better you will deal with the actual event and similar events to follow.
I absolutely would recommend this course to anyone and actually everyone. It does give you that little extra bit of confidence. Not many people admit or believe they are a bad driver, but if the only thing they could improve was their observation skills they would soon identify more hazards including the risks other people take, and this in turn would lead to they themselves starting to drive in a very different way.” – LawrenceLawrence
I was understandably apprehensive about my first observed drive but once my observer completed his drive it was obvious there were lots of areas in which I needed to improve. Stevie, my observer, was not critical of my efforts but provided support, encouragement and instilled confidence.Barbara
She took me down a variety of quiet back roads to nip my insufficient progress in the bud. Unfortunately, in taking side turnings it would appear my friend the clutch foot was up to its tricks again. It was still holding on to the left pedal while I started to take the turn. Not good. If that wasn’t bad enough, I also had to learn how to separate my braking and gear change before reaching any corner or turning. Keeping the foot off the clutch when turning is a matter of timing, but this using 3 pedals but only having 2 feet problem took a fair bit of ironing out. It’s becoming second nature now and boy has my driving improved because of it.
On the day of my test I feared the worst when I saw the Examiner scribbling away as I headed back to the car park, but I needn’t have worried. It was more relief than joy at first, but it’s started to sink in now. So has the responsibility of being a member. It’s now my duty to promote the Institute by upholding my driving standards at all times. Gulp! “
I initially became interested in Advanced Driving as I thought it would be a good achievement to have “under your belt”. I then heard that a friend had recently become an observer and it all spiralled from there. The first drive was slightly daunting and I had a lot to take. It also highlighted a few habits I had picked up that we would have to remedy.
After the initial drive it just got better and better along with the enjoyment and safety of my driving. I could basically see my driving style changing after each session with my Observer. It is after all quite exciting driving to the same system adopted by the Police. People need to understand that it’s not about driving slowly and going out for nice Sunday drives, it really can bring enjoyment to your driving and totally opens your eyes.
On the day of my test I was understandably nervous, but the tester, who I may add, was a pleasant down to earth chap put me at ease from the very beginning. I just applied all my newly found driving skills and incorporated them as per my usual sessions with my Observer. Understandably I was elated when I had found out I had past, a real achievement.
Since passing the test I have gone on to become an Observer myself and now have my own Associates. I have also enjoyed trips to Tulliallan Police College which has been a grand experience. I would advise any driver who enjoys there driving to take up the Skill for Life course as it will certainly increase your enjoyment and make you altogether a safer driver”. – NoelNoel
I was understandably apprehensive about my first observed drive but once my observer completed his drive it was obvious there were lots of areas in which I needed to improve. Stevie, my observer, was not critical of my efforts but provided support, encouragement and instilled confidence.