Blue Light driving course: Day 1 of 10

Posted on September 19th, 2011 by James Luckhurst


It’s a chilly morning as I nose into the yard of the South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) Driver Training Centre to start a two-week advanced and response driving course. I’m not alone there. A number of newly-qualified paramedics are gathering for the start of their four-week course. They’re probably wondering what I’m doing there, but most are friendly and keen to share experiences over the day’s first cup of tea.

They asked, and you may ask: what AM I doing there? The opportunity to complete the course was extended by SCAS, not because I am editor of Good Motoring, but because I also give time each week as a volunteer community responder. That means if there’s a medical emergency in my local village or its surrounds, I can be alerted by ambulance control and dispatched to the scene with a limited range of potentially life-saving equipment (including defibrillator and oxygen cylinder). In the five and a half years I have done this work, there have been many opportunities to see the effectiveness of early intervention. For example, get oxygen on someone with a heart that’s playing up, and it has the potential to reduce the severity of the consequences. Or get to a choking infant in a couple of minutes, and the chances of saving its life are improved.

Community responder schemes raise their own funds, and oursBlue Light driving course: Day 1 of 10 has been fortunate enough to benefit from a large grant from a local philanthropist – hence the opportunity for me to attend the driving course and for our scheme as a whole to operate and run its own properly badged up (and blue light-equipped) ambulance responder car.
Enough of the background. Time to meet Drew Pitman, my course tutor. Drew was a paramedic on the Isle of Wight before switching to driver training seven years ago. He’s a big bear of a man and, I imagine, will be very unforgiving if I put a foot wrong. He puts me in the classroom for a shared morning of theory and Highway Code with the young paramedics. I’m reasonably pleased with the scores I achieve in a couple of early tests. Clutching the RoSPA Gold ticket I managed to renew last year, I stride out to the Volvo V70 diesel car that I will use for the next two weeks. Drew settles in next to me and we head out for what’s known as an ITN drive – nothing to do with making the news, though. It’s Identifying Training Needs. And I have many. Very many. Although Drew is always calm, I can sense him wincing, covering his eyes, sighing, cursing and assuming I bought – rather than earned – that RoSPA gold.

At the end of the afternoon, Drew says: “We have a lot of work to do. In the next two weeks, I need to break your driving down and rebuild it the way I want it. It will not be easy but it will be possible.”

Slightly deflated on the journey home, I put in some worthwhile reading of the Highway Code and Roadcraft and pledge to myself that I will be putty in Drew’s hands tomorrow. If my driving needs some big changes, then big changes there will be.

{Day 2 of 10}