It is amazing how many people will jump in to a car without a thought for the driver’s level of competence. I am often asked ‘do you need any special training for this job’? The answer is no. In fact, there are few barriers to entry. To achieve a private hire drivers licence in the UK, you need a medical, an enhanced (DBS) police check and some references. An inspection is also carried out by a local licensing authority. They check a licence for points or convictions. Believe it or not though, nobody actually assesses driving ability, let alone any advanced driver training.
Bad Driving Habits
Over the years we all pick up bad habits. Who can truly remember everything their driving instructor taught them? Any driver with experience also knows, passing your driving test is just the start of getting behind the wheel. Driving at night, on a motorway or in snow is something you have to learn by yourself. Few people go on to receive additional training once they pass their test. Fewer still seek any recognition at a higher level. Maybe we cannot tolerate someone criticising our driving?
Concentrating on Maximum Grip
Over time I have received various bits of tuition and Advanced Driver Training. As well as driving on the public highway, I have received instruction in high-powered cars on a disused airfield. It was lots of fun getting to drive an Audi R8, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Nissan GTR. In fact, it was one of the most exhilarating things I ever did. High speed driving really highlights the effect of weight transfer on different surfaces. As I was recently advised however, (even at low speed) brake overlap when entering a bend (to give a little extra over-steer) is a racing technique. Driving on the road should concentrate on maximum safety. Therefore tyres should carry out one task at a time. The priority is maximum grip!
In the driving world there is an elite group who are regarded as the best-of-the-best on the public highway. They are Class One police drivers. They are trained to the highest standards and learn an additional skills in observation and car control. Luckily for civilian drivers, there is a book called ‘Roadcraft’, the police driver’s handbook. It sets out the system of car control and is taught by RoSPA. It is complimented by reading the latest version of the Highway Code and ensuring your road sign knowledge is current.
Luckily there is a RoSPA group in north Wales where we have some fantastic roads. Through a series of driving sessions, better use of controls is encouraged. So too is better road positioning and improved planning. These all help to develop smoothness. This draws attention to the way you treat a car. In particular it highlights critical aspects of control, such as brake release or how you grip the steering wheel. It pinpoints the difference between solid white lines, hatched areas and things like mini-roundabouts (which should all be planned on your approach).
RoSPA teach a system of car control. It begins with IPSGA (or information, position, speed, gear and acceleration). You learn new road positioning; acceleration sense; braking points; limit point (views); smooth steering action and an observant tutor will encourage imperceptible braking and gear changes. A focus on separating the actions of braking and steering gives better grip from the tyres. You are also taken through a range of driving situations. Environments change quickly from 20mph to 70mph and back again – checking you adjust correctly.
Going for Gold
So with renewed interest in the Highway Code and greater road sign knowledge, I applied for test. After the car description and cockpit checks were complete, we set off. The examiner was a police driving instructor. He requested a 45-minute drive through Cheshire and Chester City Centre. Throughout he observed my positioning, demeanour, car-control and observation skills. He asked for a five minute commentary too. Admittedly I made three minor errors. Gladly, this did not detract from the overall result of achieving RoSPA Gold – the highest level of civilian driving qualification possible.