Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Topics relating to Advanced Driving in cars
Rainmaker
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:44 pm
Location: Liverpool

Re: Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Postby Rainmaker » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:13 pm

Sunday 31st January 2016

I arrived in a more timely manner this week, i.e. not half an hour early. I'd drawn the same observer again, Jim, which suited me as he's a nice down to earth sort in his 70s and we get along nicely. No messing about this week, which was a nice change of pace after all the paperwork, eyesight tests and whatnot of the induction meeting two weeks prior.

Back to 1:1 tution now, as the weather has broken and all the observers/instructors managed to make it in. After a few minutes' small talk we headed out to the car park with a plan to head through Formby to Southport, across 'the moss' (the rural side of Southport) and and back up through Formby covering a 'challenging route' with a lot of tight bends, including some double apexes.

I hadn't slept much last night. The baby's not well and I couldn't really settle. I must have managed about two hours sleep, if that, and had made my usual half-hearted attempt at breakfast (shredded wheat, the breakfast of champions lol). The carbs kept me going and I was soon into the swing of things. After we got into my car and finished our jovial chat about the weather, life and the universe, Jim invited me to pull away when I'm ready. I put my hand up.

"Jim, do you have a medical certificate exempting you from wearing a seatbelt? If not can you please buckle up before we move away?"

He grinned and said "Good lad!" rather too enthusiastically. He'd warned me about examiners trying this one on, early in the first week. He was pleased I'd remembered to check and was hoping his repeated 'let's go then' would distract me into pulling away without noticing.

We were quickly underway on the local country roads, on one of Jim's "sly little routes to keep you on your toes". He was right, and I hate to say it but I misjudged one of the early tight bends. It was an NSL single carriageway, and I'd failed to anticipate the second corner of the road tightening half way around! It was a sharp unsighted nearsider but luckily, as I'd slowed up early and matched the initial limit point in 2nd, I had time to correct it. It did mean an annoying use of secondary braking though, and I was quite cheesed off with myself for letting it happen so I told Jim.

Cool as a cucumber, as ever, auld Jimbo just laughed and remarked it's only a problem if you keep on doing it... Move on and forget it. I slowed my approaches a little for the following bends, to the point it felt a little 'too' slow and I was definitely getting into the gear phase earlier now. At that, I noticed I was still only running with the limit point and I wasn't being delayed overall. Perhaps I had been too hasty at the approaches to the bends until now? My thinking out loud had perked up Jim's ears but he didn't say anything to me in reply. I noticed, and commented to Jim, that the Focus which had attached itself to my rear bumper on approach to the next corner buzzed back and forth in impatience; my 'slow in, fast out' approach diametrically opposed to his more oft-used 'fast in, brake around and then fumble out the other side' approach.

The poor Focus driver looked a bit confused when I increased the throttle and chased the limit point around in 2nd, while his car withered to a small dot in my rear view mirror - his brake lights still showing on the chevron board behind us. I'd gone from being the car 'holding him up' from rushing in, to the car he couldn't keep up with because he was still struggling to regain control of the vehicle after misjudging his entry.

So my tweaked approach wasn't all that slow after all, I was just doing it better now. It's funny how 'fast in slow out' can feel like the faster way around a corner, even though it isn't. The car felt a lot more sure of itself, hunkered into the tarmac on a hint of gas as it matched the limit point around the corner, eagerly awaiting it running away. It reminded me of my old terrier Gypsy, eleven years old but still lighting up with fire in her eyes when she sees something small trying to escape...

Duly noted, and lesson learned.

The polish of the overall drive really seemed to come out after that. I'd relaxed and something new had 'clicked'; I was anticipating the same as always, but acting just that little bit sooner again compared to before. I felt much more controlled, less stressed. It was like I was making the same progress, but with a centred calm demeanour rather than feeling like I was driving at 9/10. I remarked how funny it was that I was making better progress, but felt like everything had slowed down. Jim grinned at me, and said I was starting to get the hang of things... I couldn't help remember Reg Local's words ringing in my ears on a country road somewhere north of Bury: "Sort the smoothness out and the speed will come on its own. Never focus on the speed or you'll never get it right".

As it happened, Jim had not offered me any instruction today, though at the time I didn't notice. Once we'd reached Southport, after about an hour, he asked if I minded pulling up in a car park for a quick rest. A chance for me to have a swig of water and some of my e-cig, he said. Once we'd settled we had a quick chat about the three 911s we'd passed, just in time for a rather old XJ and a 4.2 V8 S Type to roll into the car park in front of us. It was just one of those moments when you catch each other's eye and smile.

A little trip down memory lane, reminiscing about feeling the road through the hydraulic steering and communicating with the chassis with your arse ensued. Getting misty eyed, we eventually got back around to the day's drive. Did I notice he'd not offered comment or instruction, he asked. Actually, now he mentions it, yes...

Another one of Jimbo's trademark smiles. He told me he'd not just been sweet talking me last session, and that I really do have all the makings of an 'easy Gold'. He had indeed seen my couple of early mistakes, he said, but since I'd pointed them out before he'd even drawn breath, corrected them and changed my approach, he'd decided to keep his gob shut and see where I took it. He was pleased to see I'd been able to self-reflect on my mistake, identify the cause of it and fix it thereafter. He said that he'd enjoyed our two trips out as, in his own words, "I don't need to do anything with you - I just enjoy the drive on an empty Sunday road." I took that as a complement, but I was far from complacent.

I'd foregone the commentary this week, after his complements the session prior. On the way back though, I couldn't help notice the fresh steaming horse manure on the entry to a sweeping left hander. I backed right off (cue angry van man behind) and took it well below the speed indicated by the limit point just until the view developed. Yup - two young girls, two abreast on some rather large looking horses just down the road after the bend opened out. One car towards, so keeping well back (having moved up to 3rd to reduce engine noise to a minimum) and then a gentle slow overtake on the offside when it was clear, and away we went. I caught sight of the girls giving us a courtesy wave as we put some road between us and them, and it was nice to have made it a non-event for them compared to angry van man behind. I soon caught up with an old boy in a Hyundai ix35 who was apparently enjoying his 'stroll' out in the car. He was doing almost a full 25mph down the NSL road, and I had nowhere to go due to the restricted view and signs warning of an upcoming double bend.

Remembering what Reg Local had taught me, I pulled up into contact and waited. Jim's eyebrow went up on one side and he gave me a knowing glisten in his eyes. As the crossview developed for the right hander, I waited for Hyundai man to hit the entry to the bend, followed him in and straightlined smartly around and past him offside. We were well past before he'd even noticed I was there. I was quite pleased with that one - it's nice when you can set things up 'just right'. Jim's smirk betrayed his approval and, dare I suggest it, enjoyment of being taken by surprise. Most associates aren't that confident and decisive apparently, so it was the last thing he'd expected me to do. Cheers Reg! ;)

After another half hour or so winding through the town centre and back through the country roads towards Aughton, we rolled into the pub car park. He pulled out an IAM folder (he's also an active part of the Haydock IAM group) and produced a laminated sheet of road signs. He pointed to a few and asked me what they were. "Dual carriageway ends ahead, road narrows ahead, minimum speed 10mph, no entry for lentil eating cyclists, and warning: the reason for my dirty tyres probably being ridden by a young girl round a bend ahead". Wasn't worth him asking, apparently. :lol:

All very light-hearted, but a serious side too. He said many people come to the group with a severe lack of knowledge of road signs and the highway code, and it was important to have good knowledge of it - and Roadcraft of course - worked into my commentary on the test if I want to come away with a gold.

He filled in my assessment sheet, with some nice comments about my 'silky drive despite a challenging route' (or words to that effect). He filled in the many categories scored (weekly columns) on my progress sheet, so that I now had A and A+ across the board, except for two (iirc) Bs for minor things. Steering (crossing arms on a 2mph parking bay entry in the pub, which I told him I was planning before I did it), and knowledge of Roadcraft made up the two Bs if I'm remembering right.

Always something to work on, he said. I couldn't argue. I was just pleased the first week's glowing report apparently wasn't just 'mark nicely and lull them in'. He was complementary and said he'd try to set me up with the group's ex-police chap at the next meeting, as he's a fleet trainer and may help find things to improve that he - being a 'lowly' diploma holding observer - may have missed.

Then he said something that immediately added to my respect for him. It went very much like this:

"Lee, I've enjoyed our drives and I'm looking forward to taking you out again soon when my turn rolls round again. Just remember something for me, though, if you will. I'm not a driving god. Nobody is, not really. We're all human. Please don't take anything I've ever told you as gospel, nor anything anyone else tells you. I don't care how qualified they are. If they help you improve your driving plan and your experience, that's great. But please make sure you take in everything, all the different approaches and opinions, and then do the same thing you do on a drive. Give it a TUG. Don't just blindly accept it, for the love of God. Separate the wheat from the chaff. What sounds, feels or works counter-intuitive to your common sense, discard it. Take in all the bits that suit, the bits that work, and add them to your toolbox. Don't become a drone, but instead keep on adding feathers to your bow and become your own advanced driver. It's so important not to be dogmatic, and not to become someone's carbon copy. You have a good skillset, a natural aptitude, and you shouldn't ever let anyone tell you their way is the only way. Enjoy your time with us."

I don't know about you, reading this, but that gave me a huge amount of respect for the guy. I have, as I'm sure so have you, come across my fair share of militants and dogmatists. "This way is the only way. That way is the way I was taught 40 years ago. My way is the only way." and so it goes on. His attitude seemed much more like it, and I thanked him for his humility and his wisdom.

I asked him about BGOL - along the lines of my thread on this forum, to which many of you have contributed. He said IAM are quite rigid about it, but he's never even heard it mentioned at RoSPA. As long as you're in control, have a good plan and execute smoothly they aren't bothered, he said. He agreed that I was doing everything right, and that waremark was on the money regards using higher gears where possible and there being no issue with declutching to prevent a stall on the way to a stationary hazard, only to end up reaching for 2nd instead of 1st if it moves away before you get there. A non-issue, he said, but it was nice that I was aware of it because most haven't a clue apparently.

Still a long way to go, but I'm really getting my teeth into things now. I feel like I've made a lot of progress and my own daily driving has definitely moved up a level or two already. It's nice to see it coming together, and things starting to make sense. I know I have a lot to learn, and even more to discover, but I definitely feel like this is working for me. I can't recommend a good RoSPA group enough. As with the end of our previous session, I insisted on buying Jim's customary pot of tea at the pub. He kept trying to buy the 'round' in himself, but I told him - in all honesty - it was the least I could do by way of thanks for his time and input.

So again I've rambled, probably too much. I'm aching, exhausted and well overdue some sleep. Please, pretty little baby girl, sleep tonight! Until the next time... Thanks for reading, and apologies for any rambling bits. So, so tired today. :)

waremark
Posts: 537
Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2015 9:23 am

Re: Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Postby waremark » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:37 pm

Rainmaker wrote:Sunday 31st January 2016

I'm aching, exhausted and well overdue some sleep. Please, pretty little baby girl, sleep tonight!


Don't know how you managed a good drive on 2 hours sleep. What does the 'fit to drive' mnemonic I AM SAFE stand for (actually, I have forgotten, but I remember that the S is for sleep)? She will get bigger!

Rainmaker
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:44 pm
Location: Liverpool

Re: Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Postby Rainmaker » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:40 pm

waremark wrote:
Rainmaker wrote:Sunday 31st January 2016

I'm aching, exhausted and well overdue some sleep. Please, pretty little baby girl, sleep tonight!


Don't know how you managed a good drive on 2 hours sleep. What does the 'fit to drive' mnemonic I AM SAFE stand for (actually, I have forgotten, but I remember that the S is for sleep)? She will get bigger!


Alas I'm used to it, and was lucky enough to have had a long sleep the night before. BTW... I AM SAFE. :)

She's definitely growing, but alas we have another cooking. :lol:

waremark
Posts: 537
Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2015 9:23 am

Re: Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Postby waremark » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:49 pm

I AM SAFE the Roadcraft version (p 254):

Illness
Attitude
Medication
Sleep
Alcohol
Food
Emotion

And congratulations. Our children bring us great delight.

Rainmaker
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:44 pm
Location: Liverpool

Re: Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Postby Rainmaker » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:51 pm

waremark wrote:I AM SAFE the Roadcraft version (p 254):

Illness
Attitude
Medication
Sleep
Alcohol
Food
Emotion

And congratulations. Our children bring us great delight.


Your Roadcraft knowledge comfortably exceeds my late night Google-fu. :) Thanks for pointing that out (genuinely), I've added it to the list of things to recite at the examiner when the time comes. :mrgreen:

chriskay
Posts: 112
Joined: Mon Sep 28, 2015 2:08 pm
Location: Shrewsbury

Re: Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Postby chriskay » Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:34 am

Sounds as if you had a great drive. I think that criticism of crossed hands in a parking situation is OTT: hope you reversed into your parking spot. ;)
Carpe diem

Mini Spirit
Posts: 19
Joined: Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:44 pm

Re: Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Postby Mini Spirit » Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:57 am

Excellent Diary, keep up the good work, I'm shocked about BGOL with ROSPA, I always thought they was more strict about that the IAM.

Stew.
IAM F1RST

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akirk
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Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2015 6:58 pm
Location: Cotswolds

Re: Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Postby akirk » Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:03 am

As well as being a great insight with regards to someone going through the process it is a genuinely enjoyable read - you write well!
Thank you

Alasdair

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jont-
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Location: Flatlands

Re: Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Postby jont- » Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:23 am

Mini Spirit wrote:I'm shocked about BGOL with ROSPA, I always thought they was more strict about that the IAM.

There appears to be more variation between individual observers in the organisations than there is at philosophical level. And IME the examiners are more relaxed than the observers about many nit-picky things.

IcedKiwi
Posts: 143
Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2015 2:06 pm
Location: Sussex

Re: Live Fast, Drive Hard - My RoSPA Diary

Postby IcedKiwi » Mon Feb 01, 2016 10:41 am

Again thanks for the great write up! Makes me want to go out a drive - Think I need to get something from the shop during my lunch break....


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