So I’ve decided to postpone Part 2 of my round-up of 2019 day trips with Bakers Dolphin to bring you something more recent instead. I’ve had a rather testing time of late, but in the best possible sense!
I was asked a couple of months ago whether I’d be interested in doing some driver assessments at work, as part of an ongoing programme to improve the standard of driving. I really wasn’t sure whether I wanted an extra role so I beat around the bush a little before saying that I didn’t feel qualified. In response, some rather nice things were said about the standard of my driving and reference was made to some feedback that had been received over recent months from customers. I was also told that I would be enrolled in a week’s training to equip me for the proposed role which would culminate in an Advanced Driving Test.
After thinking about it for a few days I reckoned that, if my own standard of driving had been recognised and the company was willing to invest in me by putting me through a course, I should take the opportunity to improve my situation. So I said yes, I would go ahead. I had decided that, if I failed any part of the test, I would drop out and continue as a coach driver as before.
Just after the Christmas/New Year break, I sat down with two of my colleagues and prepared for a week of intensive training with Steve, a very experienced driving instructor and examiner from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). The week alternated between classroom-based study and practical sessions out on the road in our training coach.
The syllabus was derived from ‘Roadcraft’, the system used by Police drivers. It was interesting to learn that even the RoSPA name is a misnomer because most ‘accidents’ on the road are caused by human error and are therefore preventable. RoSPA exists to promote better, safer driving and by the end of day one my head was buzzing with all kinds of facts and figures. Did you know, for instance, that UK government statistics show that 62% of fatalities occur on rural roads? And I thought that motorways would top the bill…
Thankfully each day included a couple of sessions on the road, where we took turns to drive while Steve and those not driving observed. This, as you can imagine, was a bit nerve-wracking for the victim in the driving seat. It’s bad enough having your colleagues as passengers but having a RoSPA examiner as well really piles on the pressure!
We tried to include town, rural and motorway driving on our routes so that we could encounter a wide variety of hazards. After each session Steve and those observing made comments on how we dealt with the hazards and highlighted any worrying habits we may have displayed. I’ve always taken pride in the standard of my driving but I was surprised to learn that I wasn’t using my nearside mirror enough while driving.
As the week progressed we prepared to take a written exam and the practical Advanced Driving Test. The week also included training to become a driving assessor. I’m pleased to report that I scored 100% in the written exam which, in reality, was a multiple choice test where the correct answer was usually quite obvious.
Friday, the day of the Advanced Driving Test, found me in my usual state of apprehension. Those who have been following my progress from the beginning will remember that I don’t perform very well in tests.
Michael, the company’s Driving Instructor, kindly let me go first so I got settled and prepared to give Steve the best drive of my life. I took things very steadily, observing and processing everything around me. I tried to make my progress as smooth as possible and react to developing hazards quickly but without a sense of panic. There was a particular mini roundabout in Yatton which had often caught us out, resulting in a nudged or mounted kerb. Thankfully I negotiated this successfully.
After about 45 minutes we arrived back in Weston and I parked up in the coach park and awaited the verdict with bated breath. Steve wasted no time in telling me that I had passed the Advanced Driving Test and then proceeded to comment on some issues that he had noted on the way round. Yatton featured again here, because I changed up a gear approaching a pinch point in the main street when there was clearly traffic approaching in the other direction, which made me change down again straight away. That’s how picky the examiner has to be in this test!
There were one or two other minor observations but even so Steve told me that I had still achieved the Gold grade. I was very relieved as you can guess! My two colleagues also passed, one with a Gold and one with a Silver.
Within days I found myself assessing other drivers and, at the time of writing, I am still working through the entire driving workforce on Annual Assessments.
Main pic (for attention only) shows a 2019-plate Mercedes-Benz Tourismo, recently acquired by Bakers Dolphin. Pic taken the day it came out of the paint shop.
My first heritage bus duty of the year – a wedding in Clevedon with a Bristol FS6G.