becoming a better driver
ADMIT IT. CHANCES ARE YOU RATE YOURSELF AN ABOVE AVERAGE DRIVER. BUT ARE YOUR SKILLS REALLY UP TO SCRATCH? IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN MORE, AS ANDY ENRIGHT DISCOVERS
Even those without a degree in statistics will be capable of realising we can't all be above average drivers. In fact, logic dictates that every other car that passes us is driven by a distinctly sub par driver. And yet despite this bald fact, precious few drivers have the humility or awareness to prioritise further driver training.
A number of large companies have seen the light, giving advanced tuition to their drivers and vastly reducing the cost and downtime of accidents. BP, the BBC, Sothebys, Ernst and Young, TNT and Chevron Texaco all turned to one of the big players in this market sector, IAM Fleet, the commercial driver training arm of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. IAM Fleet can call upon years of experience.
It's not just corporate bean counters looking to shave a few pounds off their fleet costs that can benefit from advanced driver training. Responsible motorists looking to protect their families are one burgeoning market for advanced training and many insurers now recognise advanced driving qualifications. Pass Plus is a post-driving test instruction course backed by the Driving Standard Agency designed to help young drivers cope with the reality of driving in all conditions. There's no examination, but if the instructor is satisfied that you've cottoned on, you'll be issued with a certificate that can slash up to 25 per cent off your insurance premium with companies like Churchill, Direct Line and Aviva.
Unfortunately advanced motoring is still lumbered with an image of fifty year old men driving at half the marked speed limit whilst wearing a flat cap and string-backed gloves, diligently shuffling the wheel between their hands, sanctimoniously pointing out the faults of every other motorist. It doesn't have to be this way. The IAM Test is based on the Police and Road Craft System of Car Control. As such, what the Examiner Expects on test is based around the Principles set down in Roadcraft (the Police Drivers Manual). Or more importantly, the IAM's interpretation of the Roadcraft principles in the IAM's own manual -Pass Your Advanced Driving / Riding Test.
However, the content of Roadcraft and Pass Your Advanced Driving Test is very broad and as a guideline, your drive should be based on the 5 S's of Advanced Driving: namely that driving should be Safe, Systematic, Smooth, with the correct use of Speed and with all-round Sparkle and panache.
If high speed is more of an attraction, why not take a course in track driving? There are any number available, ranging from an hour's tuition in your own car right up to full race schools at illustrious circuits such as Silverstone and Brands Hatch. Many car manufacturers run their own proprietary driver training courses and these can get very plush indeed. Lotus run a particularly good set up at their Hethel test track with both intermediate and advanced levels available at very affordable rates. As an opportunity to elicit pearls of wisdom from some of the most talented drivers in the business, it comes highly recommended. At quite the other end of the opulence scale is the Lamborghini Driving Academy. This course invites drivers to Italy to drive at a top line circuit such as Imola, staying in a five-star hotel for a few days whilst receiving intensive tuition in the best way to wrestle a Lamborghini around the track. It's fun but it certainly doesn't come cheap which is why the clientele tends to be split between wealthy owners and freeloading motoring journalists. Porsche, BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo also run excellent driver training courses.
You've probably seen journalists in car magazines effortlessly holding somebody else's expensive car at outrageous angles of oversteer. How did they learn to do this? There are two answers to that question. The expensive route is learning through sheer trial and error, bending a fair few cars and earning the opprobrium of various press offices in the process. The other way is through an intensive driver training course such as the Creative Car Control course run by Don Palmer, the man behind the successful - The Wetter The Better - wet weather driver training. Creative Car Control aims to teach students - often in as little as two hours - how to drive their cars at or near the limit of their handling capabilities. Held at the wide open spaces of Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, there's no danger of punching an expensive hole in the adjacent scenery should your car control initially prove more catastrophic than creative.
Of course, there are other ways to get your jollies whilst still learning more about driving. Although speed may not be on the agenda, an offroad course is always enormously exciting. Land Rover run some of the best in the business at a number of venues across Britain, offering both half and full day courses in the Land Rover product of your choice. These events have proved very popular as corporate Team Building exercises and certainly give rise to less festering resentment than the ubiquitous paintball excursions!
Whatever your motivation, there's a huge variety of driver training opportunities out there. As long as you check your attitude in at the door, there's no reason why you can't come out a far better driver than when you started. Sadly, the gap between a truly advanced driver and the average is far too wide at present, with inadequate driving tests putting more and more mediocre drivers onto our roads.
Think of how we perceive our driving in the following terms. If you were offered a go at, say, Jenson Button round three laps of a kart track in identical equipment, you'd fancy giving it a good crack, wouldn't you? He might only take you by a couple of lengths: heck, you might even get spotted if you were to put one over on him! Piffle. You wouldn't think you'd get close to Ronnie O'Sullivan at snooker or Andy Murray at tennis but when it comes to driving, we think we always seem to think we're up there or thereabouts. In reality, the gap is huge and training is the best way to close it.