Just how good a driver are you? Very expert, you may think, but are you sure? You must remember that the Government driving test is only a very basic, elementary examination the real learning starts when you can throw away your L-plates. Passing the ordinary driving test, even if you did so with ease at your first attempt, is only a starting point in the acquisition of mature driving skills. Fortunately, most drivers realise this and there comes a time when they want to reassure themselves that their skill is developing along the right lines.
This is why the Institute of Advanced Motorists exists. It was founded in 1956. It is dedicated to the promotion of road safety by encouraging motorists to take pride in good driving. By taking the IAM test, drivers can measure the progress they have made since passing their basic driving test.
The test lasts for about 90 minutes and is something which any driver of reasonable experience and skill should be able to pass without difficulty. Whether candidates pass or fail, however, they all learn a great deal from the advanced-standard police drivers who act as the examiners on test routes located all over Britain.
Skill with responsibility
This is what the IAM aims to promote. The number of road accidents (there are over 300,000 casualties and over 5000 deaths every year) would decrease dramatically if every driver had the ability to pass the IAM test and the self-discipline to adhere to its standards at all times. You must pass the test to become a member of the IAM.
The IAM was founded by motorists from all walks of life with the common aim of making our roads safer by raising driving standards. It is controlled by a Council whose members are elected as a result of their expertise in various spheres of motoring. They represent accident prevention authorities, medicine, the motor industry and trade, the police, driving schools, magistrates, the motoring press, other motoring organisations and the IAMs own area Groups.
Ever since it started, the IAM’s activities have been endorsed by successive Transport Ministers. As an expert organisation, its opinions on road safety issues are regularly sought by the Government. Indeed, one of its core aims is to represent the views of skilled, responsible motorists to the authorities. Each new member, therefore, becomes a valuable addition to the campaign for better driving and safer roads. So far, some 325,000 motorists have taken the advanced driving test and 70 per cent of them have passed and become members of the IAM. Of these successful drivers, one in five is a woman (men and women have similar success rates in the test). The Army has adopted the test at home and abroad, and more than 350 companies use it as a stringent check on the driving skills of staff using company-owned vehicles.
What Does the Test Involve?
A typical test route covers around 35-40 miles and incorporates all kinds of road conditions, including congested urban areas, home roads, narrow country lanes and residential streets. You are not expected to give a display of fancy driving. On the contrary, you should handle your car in the steady, workmanlike way in which you should drive every day. The examiners do not, for example, expect exaggeratedly slow speeds or excessive signalling. They do want to see candidates drive with due regard for road, traffic and weather conditions, and all speed limits must be observed. They will want to see you driving briskly and to ensure that you are not afraid to cruise at the legal limit when circumstances permit progress with safety. You will be asked to carry out certain manoeuvres. You will need to reverse round a corner, reverse and park, turn in the road using forward and reverse gears, and make a hill start. There will be one or two spot checks on your powers of observation. There are no trick questions in the test and no attempts to catch you out. You are no longer required to give a running commentary at any time, although you are free to do so if you wish to make extra clear your ability to read the road.
Who Can Take the Test?
Anyone with a full British or EC driving licence, provided that they have not been convicted of a serious traffic offence in the last three years. You can take the test in almost any car which you provide yourself, in most vans and trucks, and certain three-wheelers.
How About Disabled Drivers?
Disabled drivers are welcome as candidates provided that they use a suitably adapted car.
Where Can the Test Be Taken?
Almost certainly quite near your home. The IAM has a nationwide network of test routes. The examiner will meet you at a pre-arranged rendezvous. Tests are available from Monday to Friday.
Can the Driver Prepare?
Yes, of course. This book covers all the ground you need to be familiar with to become an Advanced driver, but many other manuals are also available. Some professional driving instructors may coach pupils up to the standard of the advanced test. In addition, you can ask your local council’s road safety officer for details of advanced driving courses in your area, and in many areas the IAM’s own local groups (details from the IAM, see page 181) can help you to prepare through their Associate Group Member Schemes.
Who are the Examiners?
They are all holders of the Advanced police driving certificate. This means that they have passed the stiffest test of driving ability in Britain.
Here in greater detail are some of the points the examiners look for and comment on in their test reports:
Smooth and progressive? Excessive or insufficient? Is acceleration used at the right time and place?
Smooth and progressive or late and fierce? Are the brakes used in conjunction with mirror and signals? Are road, traffic and weather conditions taken into account?
Are engine and road speeds properly co-ordinated when changing gear? Does the candidate slip or ride the clutch? Does he coast with the clutch disengaged?
Is it a smooth change action, without jerking? If automatic transmission is fitted, does the driver make full use of it?
Use of gears
Are the gears correctly selected and used? Is the right gear selected before reaching a hazard?
Is the wheel held correctly with the hands at the quarterto-three or ten-to-two positions? Does the driver pass the wheel through his hands? (Use of the cross arms technique, except when manoeuvring in confined spaces, is not recommended.)
Is the candidate alert or does he slump at the wheel? Does he nonchalantly rest an arm on the door while driving?
Does he read the road ahead and show a good sense of anticipation? Does he show the ability to judge speed and distance?
Does the driver keep his attention on the road? Does he allow himself to be distracted easily?
Is the candidate careful not to obstruct other vehicles, by driving too slowly, taking up the wrong position on the road, or failing to anticipate and react correctly to the traffic situation ahead?
Does the driver keep to the correct part of the road, especially when approaching or negotiating hazards?
Does the candidate keep to the appropriate lane? Is he careful not to straddle white lines?
Observation of road surfaces
Does the driver keep an eye on the road surface, especially in bad weather, and does he watch out for slippery conditions?
Are signals, signs and road markings observed, obeyed and approached correctly? Does the driver show courtesy at pedestrian crossings?
Speed limits and other legal requirements
Are they observed? (The examiner cannot condone breaches of the law.)
Is this carried out safely and decisively, obtaining the right distance from other vehicles and using the mirror, signals and gears correctly?
Hazard procedure and cornering
Are road and traffic hazards coped with properly? Are bends and corners taken in the right manner?
Does the candidate frequently use the mirror? Does he use it in conjunction with his signals and before changing speed or course?
Are turn indicator signals – and hand ones when needed given at the right place and in good time? Are the horn and headlight flasher used in accordance with the Highway Code?
Does the candidate show reasonable restraint – but not indecision – at the wheel?
Is sufficient consideration and courtesy shown to other road users?
Does the driver treat the car with care? Does he overstress it, perhaps by revving the engine needlessly or by fierce braking?
Finally, are manoeuvres, such as reversing, performed smoothly and competently?
The ability to demonstrate reverse parking must be shown.
You can take the Advanced Test anywhere you like in the UK, a route is nearly always available near your home address. If you are in any doubt, the IAM will confirm which current route is most convenient for you.
At the end of your test your examiner will, after announcing your result, give an expert view of your skill and responsibility at the wheel. There may be praise, and certainly constructive criticism will be offered – the IAM aims to be entirely honest with you. Occasionally, a candidate is found to have developed a potentially dangerous fault of which he is completely unaware a quiet word from the examiner will help him to correct it. You will not be failed for minor faults.
When You Pass
When you pass the advanced test and become a member of the IAM, these are among the benefits available to you:
* The right to display the IAM badge on your car, providing visible proof of the standard you have set yourself.
* An introduction to motor insurers who may give special terms, subject to a satisfactory proposal.
* RAC concessionary rates; Special discounts, which have been negotiated by the IAM, for the range of rescue, recovery and home start services offered by the RAC.
* A motoring magazine ‘Milestones’, which is published every four months. It is produced specially for IAM members and written by and for people who take a keen interest in motoring.
* Breakdown: The National Breakdown Recovery Club offers services at about 17.5% below the normal rates.
* Car hire: Avis and Hertz offer members a discount.
* Vehicle purchase credit: Special terms are offered by NWS Bank Plc.
* Mastercard: The Bank of Scotland offers members a Mastercard carrying an attractive interest rate.
* Health care: The Institute has special arrangements with BUPA, PPP, WPA, the Exeter Hospital Aid Society and also offers a medical Plusplan underwritten through Lloyds.
* Hospital money plan: The IAM offers an inexpensive Hospital Cash Plan underwritten at Lloyds and of special value to people who are self-employed.
* Certificate, badge and regalia: The IAM Certificate confirms that you have been elected a Member. The IAM badge provides visible proof of the standard you have set yourself and have achieved. The range of regalia available is not only attractive for personal wear or use in the home or office but gently alerts others to the desirability of improving their driving standards as you have done!
* Social activities: The chance to meet other men and women who share your outlook on motoring. You can decide to join one of the IAM’s local groups and take part in the road safety, driving and social events which they organise.
* Car maintenance: A 7.5% discount on new tyres, batteries and other items, by presenting your current membership card at any of the 400 National Tyre Service branches.
* Parking: Special parking rates near Heathrow. Ring 081-759 9661 for details. Coach service to terminals.
[Reproduced with permission from “Advanced Motoring” The Institute of Advanced Motorists Manual, published by Kogan Page Ltd (London), Copyright Institute of Advanced Motorists and Ian Webb, 1977,1982,1989,1992]