Last year saw the 80th anniversary of the introduction of the UK driving test. The very first one was taken in 1935 at a cost of 37.5p by Mr J Beene, and apart from during World War 2, when testing was suspended, literally millions have followed. The UK operates a system whereby we can pass our test as early as 17 (16 under certain circumstances) and that’s it, provided we do not come to the attention of the authorities, perhaps through a speeding offence or a blameworthy collision. In many of our working lives continual professional development or training is considered part of the culture and in some cases is mandatory.
And for good reason, as it helps us to manage health and safety, introduce working practices and learn about worthwhile innovations. Driving for most of us is one of the most dangerous activities we do on a daily basis, but we barely give it a second thought. It is perhaps considered a rite of passage into adulthood and just a necessity for the rest of us. Yet only a handful of drivers go on to develop their driving further and take a more advanced test or even have a refresher session.
So what stops us from taking our driving further? Having spoken to thousands of motorists over the years, common replies are often: “I have a licence already, so why do I need to… it’s not compulsory… I thought about it but was not sure where to go… I thought it was probably expensive…what if I’m really bad, will they take my licence away?”
I hope the information in this article will help answer those questions, and others too.
What happens on an advanced course?
Once you have decided how you wish to progress to advanced driving, you will be given the contact details of your trainer. The trainers and examiners are always highly experienced volunteers and have a passion for driving they wish to share with others. The training is conducted at a pre-agreed location and time to suit you. You can expect a number of sessions over several weeks, and will usually be driving your own vehicle. Many organisations do not put a time limit on the number of sessions you can have. After each session you can go away and practise what you have learned on your own.
The training itself aims to take in all different road types and environments where possible, and will look at positioning, smoothness, safety, eco driving and perhaps a better understanding of the newer technologies fast being introduced into our vehicles.
If you wish, you can then take an advanced test which is often with an independent examiner, but only when you feel ready. It takes about 90 minutes to complete, again locally to you, and you are given the result immediately, along with feedback. If you are unsuccessful you can simply take it again in the future after perhaps a little more practice. No one needs to know and your licence is still 100% intact. If you prefer, you can just have the training itself but you can discuss the options with your trainer as they may well be able to get rid of any fears you have.
What’s the point of taking an advanced test?
Everyone has a different reason for taking an advanced test, but some of the advantages are:
- A more economical driving style – expect your fuel consumption to improve by between 10 and 15 per cent, depending on your existing style.
- Wear and tear will be reduced, as you may be changing gear or braking less.
- You are statistically less likely to be involved in a collision, as you will develop a higher level of awareness and anticipation of hazards.
- Insurance companies will often apply discounts which may equal or exceed the cost of the course itself. It is worth discussing possibilities with your own insurer as most will recognise qualifications from the main advanced driver companies.
- You may receive discounts off motoring products.
- It is a great opportunity to brush up on current road laws or new signs by looking though a new Highway Code. It is updated every few years and could be used against us in court if we do not have an up-to-date knowledge. Ignorance of the law is not a defence.
- It looks great for potential employers as it can reduce their company risk and potentially their insurance liability.
- It’s definitely one for the CV.
- It is an enjoyable experience and you will have a huge sense of personal achievement when you complete the process.
So what is available?
Some local authorities offer free or discounted one-hour assessments for drivers in specific age categories. Contact your local road safety unit to find out about current schemes.
GEM Motoring Assist has joined forces with RoSPA to offer a one-hour assessment for drivers of any age. Check out the GEM website or call RoSPA 0121 248 2099. These types of assessments are confidential and there is no pass or fail.
Put ‘advanced driving’ into Google and a list of suppliers will appear, allowing you to search in more detail. Prices can vary from around £50 to £140, and each offers various additional incentives. Ask about any discounts if you’re a young driver.
Contact a reputable driver training school. Ask for recommendations from friends or colleagues, or contact the Driving Instructors Association (driving.org) for a list of instructors near you. They are often well qualified and will be regularly checked by the DVSA for quality; many do not just focus on teaching learners but can tailor a course to suit you. It can be for some extra motorway training or to build up your confidence following a spell away from driving, perhaps through ill health or following a collision.