Get an MOT for your driving

Posted on August 11th, 2015 by James Luckhurst

1 The GEM RoSPA Driving Assessment form

HAVE YOU ever given any thought to letting an expert give your driving the once-over? If you’re like most if us, then you won’t have picked up a Highway Code or booked any refresher or advanced training since passing the L-test.

We get our cars serviced and MOT-ed once a year, yet there’s no rule telling us we have to get our driving checked. Most of us will have managed to collect a few ‘bad habits’ in our driving careers, so the opportunity to get ourselves checked out by a professional in a friendly, informal way should be grabbed with both hands!

I booked just such a check-up in conjunction with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), and their nationwide network of police advanced drivers.

There was time before the assessment for me to brush up on a few pages of the Highway Code, and to visit to the folks at the hand car wash near my local railway station, just to ensure both my little Skoda Fabia and I looked ready for the encounter.

Over a calming cup of coffee, my assessor, Bob, told about his own driving pedigree. A 30-year career in the police, most of it spent in the traffic department. He talked enthusiastically about the simple steps that were within the reach of all of us to make driving safer, to reduce risks and to increase the satisfaction we could gain from each journey.

“The first step is usually connected with a positive, defensive attitude,” he explained. “The fact that you’re here, wanting to learn, shows you hopefully have that attitude. What we’re also trying to do is to motivate as many drivers as possible to want to brush up their skills.

“The absence of any compulsory re-testing or training after the driving test does mean that we can lapse into the odd bad habit, that can usually be put right with a few relevant tips and a bit of practice.”

Coffee cups empty, we strolled out into the car park, where my Fabia sat gleaming in the sunshine. There were a few formalities as Bob checked my licence and we took a quick look over the car. All the time he was keen to put me at my ease and ensure I got the most from the session.

I like to think I’m a safe driver, but within a short time Bob was making a few suggestions. In fact he checked first if I’d prefer a detailed session of feedback at the end or if was OK to point things out as we went along. Being a chatty sort of chap, I was more than happy to let him chip in whenever he wanted. Thankfully it was not too often. But he did tidy up my position on the road to ensure I picked up as good a view as possible through the many rural bends we encountered. I told him I was prone to rushing (as opposed to speeding), so that I sometimes found myself in the middle of something when what I really needed to do was hold back.

We were trundling along a quiet road, followed a little too closely by someone I assumed would be keen to zip past. Ahead was a group of three cyclists and we were losing forward visibility. I couldn’t see far enough beyond them to be sure it was safe to go past. Nor did I want to be seen as dithery in case the driver behind became grumpy. See what I mean? Bob, with all the reassurance that came from a career as a highly skilled driver, calmed me down.

“Don’t let the driver behind tell you how fast to go,” he said. “Hold back. Let the cyclists get round the bend, then when the road opens up you can see much further ahead and you’ll know you can get safely past them.”

I learn loads from that – and from the entire driving session. Bob gave praise where it was due, and encouragement where he thought I could do something a bit more safely and smoothly. We concluded in good spirits and I felt motivated to put his advice into practice immediately.

A driving assessment would make a brilliant birthday present for a motoring enthusiast, but on a more serious note it would also be hugely beneficial for those willing to accept that they’re probably not as good behind the wheel as they think they are. As a friendly and positive experience without any of the pressure that goes with passing or failing, it’s an ideal way of improving safety and reducing risk – and something I very much look forward to repeating within the next three years.

MAKE YOUR BOOKING
A driver Assessment costs £55. Call the RoSPA Advanced Drivers’ Association on 0121 248 2099 to make your booking, or download an application form from motoringassist.com/eda. Send it to RoSPA with the fee and a RoSPA assessor will contact you to discuss a time, date and venue to meet.
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