Group’s drive to help motorists

Brian Laidler during his talk to Morpeth Rotary Club
Brian Laidler during his talk to Morpeth Rotary Club

Morpeth Rotary Club

BRIAN Laidler, Senior Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) Northumberland Branch, talked to members about safer driving.

He prepared by taking Past President David Richardson through his paces as a driver around Morpeth. He assessed him as ‘above average’.

The IAM started in the late 1950s after a group of ex-police drivers, mainly from Hendon Police Training College, decided to do something about the standard of public driving.

Their plan to improve road safety was to adapt the police driver handbook and offer training and support to everyday drivers. They began to work with the general public when they retired.

The organisation, which has its headquarters in London, lobbies on national policy and there are 200 local support groups. The Northumberland group, which covers Berwick to the Newcastle boundary, started in 2002.

Each group has a training department that prepares applicants for the Advanced Driving Test. They must have passed the basic test and had at least six months’ experience of driving, but there is no upper age limit.

The examiner is a serving police officer and the test takes an hour-and-a-half.

IAM volunteer observers are trained by Mr Laidler to go out with the applicants to prepare for the test. The Northumberland group has 65 members, but many only join for the year as associate members until they have passed and then leave.

Some stay and train to be observers.

The great benefit is that applicants are offered as many lessons as it takes to reach test standard. They are also taken through an urban area and asked to say what they are seeing, thinking and planning as they drive.

Road conditions are getting more complicated, with bus lanes and more information written on the road instead of on road signs. In busy areas, what is written on the road is often obscured.

Mr Laidler sometimes goes out with mature drivers who say they are safe and steady, but they drive at 45mph whether in a 60mph or 30mph zone and so are dangerous in both.

IAM is keen to pass on tips and knowledge to improve safety. One is doing a POWER check of petrol, oil, water, electrics and rubber (tyres and wipers) before setting off. Others include brake before changing gear so that the whole weight of the car is not thrown suddenly onto the front driving wheels and keep a safety zone around your car and let no other driver enter it.

Members are sometimes asked to take part in opinion surveys on motoring policy.

They mostly think that driver quality is the key and it is better to tackle the problem instead of fining and punishing the outcome of driver error with fixed penalties.

Once the advanced test is passed, there are some advantages with the price paid for motor insurance as a no-claims history is built up. There are also four magazines a year and discounts on services to motorists.

A vote of thanks was proposed by a Rotarian who had just suffered £2,000 of car damage by colliding with a suicidal sheep.