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Driving skills put to the test

West Briton reporter Mark Binnersley, an experienced HGV driver, took a look at the work of the Cornwall Advanced Motorists’ Group and under the expert eye of group secretary Diana Smeath, put his skills to
the test.

“Do you think that was the right gear for that roundabout?” asked Diana. “Er, no. It should have been a lower one,” I replied.

“And what sign have we just passed?”

“Er, not sure.”

That was the conversation just a couple of minutes into an assessment of my driving with Diana Smeath, the secretary of the Cornwall Advanced Motorists’ group.

I decided to get behind the wheel after the organisation invited me to take a look at its work.

And with four years’ long distance HGV experience under my belt I thought I’d do all right.

But I’d been caught out straight away, my bad habits were obvious.

You think you’ve got it all sewn up but under the scrutiny of an observer it soon becomes apparent how much your standards have slipped.

Luckily I was able to draw on my professional driving experience to avoid further criticism.

As we progressed along the route across mid Cornwall, I managed to keep a cool head, check the mirrors, signal in good time and stick to the speed limits, while commentating on my driving.

But despite the initial mishaps I was pleasantly surprised to open an e-mail three days later containing this verdict: “Mark did exceptionally well during his assessment drive.

“He gave us a smooth, safe ride, anticipating any potential hazards with good forward observation.

“He commentated on what he was seeing, explaining his thinking as he drove.

“All this with three passengers in a car he hadn’t driven before made his performance even more impressive.”

The route followed Carnon Downs, Bissoe, United Downs, Carharrack, Chacewater, Penstraze, Chiverton roundabout and Scorrier. The assessment focused on areas such as overtaking, commentary, Highway Code and car sympathy.

Despite being initially nerve-wracking and demanding, the assessment drives home the importance of road safety.

Thousands of people die each year on the roads and with that sobering fact in mind it is worth taking steps to improve your driving.

According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists, advanced drivers have a 50 to 75 per cent lower accident rate.

Advanced drivers can also enjoy lower insurance premiums and other discounts with motoring organisations.

The cost of the test is £75 and includes a driving manual, associate membership of CAM and first-year membership of the IAM.

Candidates are prepared by CAM members through a series of observed runs, where guidance and tuition is given.

The Cornwall group, which is currently looking for candidates and new members to act as observers, also receives support of the police.

With 25 years on traffic duty PC Bob Heayel of Devon and Cornwall Police said: “The police work towards improving road safety with engineering, enforcement and education.

“But we fully support groups like CAM for the good work that they do in this area in improving general road safety.”

This story originally appeared in the West Briton

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