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Karen Wollaston receives her Advanced Driving Certificate

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Pictured with her Observer / Coach, Ian Hughes, Karen Wollaston receives her Advanced Driving Certificate, confirming that she achieved the prestigious IAM Road Smart First, awarded to a very small number of delegates undertaking their advanced driving exam.

Her observer, Ian, said “Karen was a model student, keen to learn and develop her skills. She perceived me like a coach and mentor”.
Karen tells her story and recommends joining Crewe and Nantwich Advanced Motorists affiliated to IAM Road Smart, previously known as the Institute of Advanced Motorists. You can contact Ian, Public Relations Officer, on 01270 629284 or see the website crewenantwicham.org.uk

Karen’s Story
When your husband buys you a voucher for an Advanced Driving Course is he trying to tell you something … ?

This was the question I asked myself when I received my voucher for Christmas 2015. I’d always fancied doing the course myself after my husband had been awarded his IAM Motorbike certificate in 2010, but it wasn't really something I could be bothered to arrange – what could I possibly learn anyway, I’d been driving for nearly 20 years?

I was pretty apprehensive about someone watching my driving and decided to spend the first few months of the year putting off the whole thing, busy at work, dark nights, no spare weekends, and any other excuse I could think of. I read the ‘Essential Guide’ handbook a few times and immediately recognised a few areas of my driving that could be improved. I decided to spend a few weeks practicing using both hands on the steering wheel before I made the call to the observer.

After chatting on the telephone with Ian Hughes, my IAM observer, who was a member of the Crewe & Nantwich Advanced Motorists group (CANAM), we arranged a date to meet up for my first lesson. Initially I thought, a couple of lessons and that would be it – however I was surprised to learn from Ian that most students require around 10-12 lessons, and some up to 30! I was no exception and had around 10 lessons, each lasting a couple of hours at a time.
The first lesson began with a discussion at Ian’s house about what I was expecting to achieve from the Advanced course, anything I was concerned about with my driving, and anything I didn’t enjoy about driving. I explained to Ian that I thought there were probably a few areas to improve, and that I often lacked confidence when going somewhere different and that I was quite cautious when driving, due to spending the last 15 years with my children in the car. The first lesson was a route that Ian regularly used for new students, involving a considerable amount of gear change and twisty bits to establish driving style. My car has an automatic gear box and Ian asked if I had ever used it in manual. I hadn’t! Why on earth would I do that, I thought; actually, how do I do that was the other question. So during that first lesson I was learning how to drive my car manually.

Ian had a selection of routes that we would use, some particularly twisty, some including complex road systems, dual carriageways and motorways that meant each trip out was varied and challenging to some extent. We would always start each lesson with a recap of the previous week. Ian would go through his ‘tick list’ identifying areas of the drive when he thought I’d done well, and others where there was room for improvement. Ian always put me at ease, and I found that he commented positively on many occasions, which helped to increase my confidence, whilst suggesting opportunities to further improve on my driving techniques.

As the weeks progressed, I found that rather than being apprehensive about the drive outs that I had each week, I was looking forward to them. I enjoyed the new roads and whilst Ian explained that he was testing my ability, I found I was able to make good progress. On several occasions Ian would ask me to do some sort of commentary of what I could see on the road and what I needed to take notice of. I found this difficult at first, as I couldn't say what I saw quickly enough, but I continued to practice this whenever I was driving on my own, and gradually my confidence in this area grew.

When Ian decided that I was ready to do my check run, this was arranged with another advanced observer, Caralyn. When we met, I found again that Caralyn put me at ease, as Ian had done, and explained the purpose of the check run and observed my driving ability on a trip involving a variety of different roads and a section of the M6, including rush hour traffic and roadworks to contend with.

After the check run, Ian received a report from Caralyn and confirmed that I was ready for my test. I was contacted by my examiner, Mark Wakelam, and we arranged a Saturday morning for my test to take place from a local supermarket car park.

When I met Mark, he explained that he was a retired traffic police officer, and had been an examiner for a number of years. He was familiar with the route he took me on, all of which was completely new to me. We went into the town of
Newport on a busy Saturday morning, which was the ideal place to demonstrate my commentary and I did this for approximately 10 minutes of the test.

At the end of the test, Mark told me that I had passed and that he was pleased to advise that he was going to award me a First.

I was absolutely delighted with the result; I was so pleased with myself. My family and friends have noticed an improvement in my driving, and my husband has probably noticed the biggest difference, as I will now offer to drive anywhere and everywhere.

Since completing the Advance Driver training, Ian, my observer, put me forward as the Associate of the Year. There were a number of nominations for other candidates, but I am pleased to say that I received the award which was presented at the Annual General Meeting in October 2016.

I would recommend the Advanced driver training course to everyone, of any age and of any driving ability. Even if you think you don’t need it, or you are too old, or are safe on the road anyway, do the training. There is always something you can learn and it is an enjoyable way of doing this. All the observers give their time voluntarily and the benefits for a driver are so worthwhile. My daughter has recently passed her driving test, and I will be putting her in for the Advanced course over the next year.

Ian said, “You may lack confidence in certain aspects of your driving, like motorways or night driving. We are here to help; we have solutions to support and develop your skills and confidence. Try a free assessment drive with one of our qualified observers and taste the benefits that it will bring to your driving”. Ring Ian to arrange.