The Institute of Advanced Motoring is more associated with rugged motorcycles and cars and motor rallies than octogenarians in mobility scooters. But top of the contents page in the current issue is a photograph of Fiona Hague, who passed her Advanced Driving Test over 30 years ago and has been a member since the 1960s when she had a passion for long-distance road trips. After a period of ill health that threatened to prevent her from driving, now in her 80s Fiona felt it was her responsibility to ensure that she was still fit enough to drive. After passing a gruelling one-and-a-half-hour test she feels confident again behind the wheel of a car, and – more importantly, driving her mobility scooter.
Losing their mobility is a problem for many older people. It can leave them isolated and not able to shop, visit friends or go to church. Sally’s consultant at Salford Royal referred her to the Regional Driving Assessment Centre, part of the Driving Mobility charity that helps people with disabilities or medical conditions who want to be sure they can drive well. She said, ‘I bit the bullet and put myself forward for the test, and it knocked decades off me to know that I could manage it.’ She says it has helped her to stay behind the wheel and preserve the independence that is so precious to her.
Fiona has always driven for pleasure, enjoying the sense of freedom, and although she can’t drive the distances she used to she says she can still escape on the mobility scooter for more local excursions. And what she’s learnt from her recent IAM training translates to ‘scooter-craft’ on the roads. ‘Using a scooter daily has sharpened my wits,’ she said. ‘You’re very vulnerable, but I remember what I was taught all those years ago – to look ahead, look for hazards: car doors opening, people walking out in front of you, dogs on extending leads! It’s a reassurance being able to think back to my advanced training. It’s so adaptable that it still has influences on both my car and scooter driving.’
Fiona, like the rest of us may also have to deal with new technology on our roads, including the small autonomous delivery robots that are being trialled in different parts of the country. - Learn more here
An IAM member wrote that these little shopping robots have recently appeared in his region, and he has seen cars at a zebra crossing waiting for one to cross! He wants to know who has priority in this instance, and if a vehicle is involved in a collision with a robot, how would blame be apportioned? The IAM replies that this specific circumstance is not covered in the current Highway Code. The Code is updated on a regular basis, though there have been separate consultations around the use of autonomous vehicles. The responsibility for them rests with their operators, but the issue of priority should be clarified, and the IAM is making representations to the government to assure that it is.
In the latest version the Highway Code mentions ‘The Dutch Reach’, where to open a car door the driver reaches over with the left hand to make sure he/she looks into the mirror and through the window to check for passing cyclists or motorbikes. This practice has saved many lives in cycle-dense Holland since it was introduced.
The IAM offers refresher driving courses that not only ensure your skills are up-to-date, but teach about new innovations such as ‘Smart’ motorways where the inside lane, that used to be used only for emergencies, has become an extra ‘live’ lane. The RAC says that Smart motorways are a contentious topic. The Department for Transport has been forced to pause the rollout of all-lane-running (ALR) smart motorways entirely amid increasing safety concerns. ‘However, there are many miles of smart motorway already in place across the UK, so it's vital drivers and riders get to grips with how to use them.’ More information here.
Older drivers are statistically safer for a number of reasons. While getting older can mean slower reaction times, older drivers have many years of driving experience, which can compensate for less rapid reflexes. They’re also much more cautious drivers, are less prone to taking risks, most self-regulate by not driving at times and in places they do not feel comfortable, and few older drivers drink and drive or take illegal drugs, and most don’t speed.
The IAM has a Mature Driver Refresher course for just £65. It’s an honest, unbiased review of your driving, designed to boost your skills and confidence, and reassure yourself and others. There is no test and no pressure. For more information call 0300 303 1134, or go online.