Stirling Moss once said, “There are two things no man will admit he cannot do well: drive and make love”. Now, I'm a 21-year-old bloke. This means, naturally, I really am a very good driver. Not only can I beat everyone away from the lights, I can also multitask by texting my friends while changing the music and rolling a spliff – all while looking out for nuisance speed cameras which are likely to land me a hefty fine.

OK, most of that is an exaggeration, but one in three people who die on our roads is aged under 25. The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has decided that people in this age group are exactly the sort who should be given some extra training to become safer drivers. For £40 young drivers can take part in Momentum, which incorporates an online test that gets an idea of their attitude to driving and gives the IAM an idea of where they need practice. Once they've done this, they will spend an hour out with one of their examiners who will assess their driving and give them a few pointers. Simple. But is it actually worthwhile? There's only one way to find out.

The online assessment

Not a good start. The online assessment seems to be a way of the IAM trying to be cool and making judgements about your driving based on questions like, 'what's your dream car?' and 'what music do you listen to when you drive?'. I answer with 'Land Rover Defender' and a song that a beardy IAM instructor will never have heard of. I don't want them to realise that I'm a proper boy racer just yet.

The drive

The day of the drive arrives and the lay-by I'd arranged to meet the examiner in is full, so it's a pitstop style manoeuvre as he jumps in. He checks my documents and questions why I'm doing this. “Er, it's because I'm a boy racer and I don't want to die.” Shit, I've been too honest. Now I'm going to have to drive like a nun so he isn't too judgemental.

I set off down the road following his directions and trying to drive naturally. Apart from worrying every time he scribbles something down on his clipboard it's going OK. He directs me down a cul-de-sac and asks me to do a left-hand reverse. It's like learning to drive again! After a while we pull over and he discusses his obsessions so far. First of all, speed. “You have a tendency to sit at 5 mph above the speed limit.” I resist the temptation to argue against this one. I know my speedo (like most others) is around 5 mph out, so I tend to take this into account.

But anyway, he's not finished. “Your steering is like a racing driver. That's fine on track but what happens when your airbag goes off?” OK, fair enough, my steering is sloppy. Like most people I ditched the push-pull method as soon as I passed my driving test and have adopted a strange, but comfortable, way of steering. He also mentions the IAM way of negotiating bends using the vanishing point technique. This is something which I will try and incorporate into my driving – it's worth looking up as it makes sense in most situations.

After a brief telling off, sorry, discussion, we carry on. My instructor, Jonathan, starts to open up a bit. He's a petrolhead himself – with Jaguar E-Types, an Aston Martin DB5 and an Audi R8 on his list of past cars. He's now running a diesel however, as fuel economy is more important than top speed. Apparently.

I do a bit of rural driving before heading into Leicester city centre to try an urban environment. He gives some good tips about spotting hazards. I feel very conscious as I sit at an indicated 30mph with a queue of cars building up behind me. He also reminds me of the two second rule – although I try not to make a habit of tailgating apparently I now seem to have ditched the two second rule in favour of the half a second rule. Oops.

Before long my hour of driving is over. We pull over to discuss what I do well, and what needs work. Although initially mentioning all my bad points Jonathan's keen to highlight the positives. “You've clearly got a lot of experience and you're not lacking confidence. You're a safe driver – I feel perfectly comfortable being driven by you.” From an ex-police driving instructor, I'll take that. Although I don't agree with everything he's pointed out I'll take it on-board. I took the criticism better than I expected and it's a very worthwhile experience to have an outsider's view of your driving. It's amazing how many bad habits you can pick up over a few years. If you're interested in advanced driving visit www.iam.org.uk.
 





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