From Irresponsible "Boy Racer" to Professional Chauffeur

During my travels and I am sure you all do, I notice varying skills of driving. It sometimes still shocks me at how some people can be when they squeeze their car into gaps when travelling at often excessive speeds even over and above the speed limit.

We have seen on YouTube clips of people overtaking and only just making it avoiding a collision by a whisker - but to be on the receiving end of this in real life ourselves is something quite different.

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Thankfully I have not been involved in a massive accident myself, but I have been a victim of a lorry driver falling asleep at the same moment as I was overtaking him at 1:30am on the M25 at 70 mph! Again thankfully, the damage was not severe, although inconvenient, and amazingly my car held straight and no one was actually hurt.

In my younger days, I did have quite a number of accidents, that I can now look back and say that I could and should have avoided. My father was so patient with me in those days, even when I wrote off a vehicle that he loaned me. So, yes, I am ashamed to admit that I have been the cause of accidents in the past and I even drove much in excess of the speed limit when returning from Cheddar, Somerset to our home at Dauntsey Lock, near Lyneham, Wiltshire - indeed, I used that route as a time trial to beat my last time in my Mini 1000.

So, from my experiences and observing other driving standards, I thought I would write a further  blog that attempts to explain what is going through my mind as currently, I drive in excess of 1,000 miles per week for clients.

I P S G A the System of Car Control

This can be best explained by considering what is know as I P S G A, the System of Car Control as taught by IAM Roadsmart and the Police Federation Roadcraft. It was first devised at the Police College at Hendon over 60 years ago and has formed the core of the Police Rider’s Handbook or Roadcraft since then.

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The 'System' is a systematic method of driving which, if used correctly, will substantially reduce the risk of a driver being the cause of an accident. A detailed explanation of the System is given in Roadcraft, the police driver's manual, and it is to this book you must refer if you want a thorough understanding. 

There are five phases of the System which must be considered on the approach to any hazard. A hazard can be the presence and/or movement of any vehicle or pedestrian, a road feature such as a roundabout or a climatic feature such as a sudden downpour of rain.

The five features are:

  • Information
  • Position
  • Speed
  • Gear
  • Acceleration

The Information phase overlaps every other phase of the System.

In the description of the Information phase Roadcraft adds the sub-acronym T.U.G or Take-Use-Give as an indication that we have to do something with all that information.

Take in information by looking at traffic signs and looking at the position and movement of vehicles and pedestrians. Be aware of observation links i.e. the hazards associated with what can be seen e.g. parked vehicles, a pedestrian flagging a taxi, a garage forecourt, a pedestrian walking to the front of a bus or roadside telephone poles formed into a curved line in the distance. Use your mirrors at any point in the System but particularly before changing position, before slowing or after changing gear i.e. a final check behind before the hazard is reached.

Use the information you have gathered by making a plan to deal with the identified hazards and making contingency plans for dealing with the unexpected e.g. car doors opening, a taxi suddenly stopping, a car shooting out of a roadside garage, a bus suddenly stopping or a car coming fast out of a bend ahead.

Give information to other road users e.g. using your indicators to inform them that you are going to change position, using your horn or flashing your headlights to let them know of your presence. 

Position your vehicle to re-enforce any other form of signal.

Position yourself so that you can pass hazards safely and smoothly. Give a good clearance when passing parked vehicles, cyclists or when overtaking moving vehicles. Follow the advice given in the Highway Code for positioning on the approach to roundabouts. Position yourself when approaching bends in national speed limit areas so as to maximise your view of the road ahead - taking account of oncoming/following vehicles and nearside hazards. Good observation will allow you to make the most effective use of available (legal) road space e.g. taking a clear lane at traffic lights on a dual carriageway. Good positioning smoothes progress.

Speed: 

Obtain a safe speed to negotiate the hazard. Reduce speed, if need be, by either easing the pressure on the accelerator pedal (deceleration) or by braking. Whatever method is used it is essential to lose speed smoothly.

Gear: 

Once you have the right speed for the hazard, engage the correct gear for that speed. The aim, almost all of the time, is to have a clean separation between braking and changing gear i.e. no overlapping. Slight overlapping when going downhill into a corner or a bend is acceptable PROVIDED you do the gear change when most of the braking has already been done.

Acceleration: 

Consider accelerating away from the hazard after taking account of your speed and the position/movement of other road users. The accelerator pedal is NOT an on/off switch to be suddenly pressed to the floor when a hazard has been negotiated. Use the pedal smoothly. 

Summing Up

The emphasis I personally place on driving in each of the above phases, is making the experience smooth, so I plan ahead and aim to slow down gradually, so as to maximise the comfort for my passengers and minimise the stress that can be caused by sudden or erratic movements of my car.

Obviously when necessary I can brake suddenly in an emergency and I am always prepared to do that, but that would be the exception, as planning ahead can mostly avoid those times.

I became a qualified Advanced Driver though IAM Roadsmart in February 2013 and qualified as  Master with them in November 2017 ensuring that I maintain the same high standard after then 4 years.

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To continue to be qualified as a Master, I now need to retake regularly which I am committed to do. In fact when we are able to explain and take on professional chauffeurs, they also will need to become a Master Driver - we are intent on making sure that the same high driving standards are maintained, which is now become part of our branding.

Is there more to learn?

For those interested, I plan to write a few more blogs focussed on driving safely and how to prepare - do watch out for those in the coming weeks/months ahead. Life is all about learning, no matter what sphere we are in - we can always be a better version of who we are and what we do. Onwards and upwards they say!