Category Archives: driving instructors

WANTED – Female friendly driving instructors across the UK

We’re told it takes more lessons for young women to pass their driving test than young men on average.

Exceptions apply as ever.

An explanation for this might be research suggesting that females of all ages are more nervous than their male counterparts.

But the way I see it is that young women have fewer accidents than (most) young men so isn’t it a good thing to have more lessons, be cautious and take longer to become a better driver?

Regardless of age, I speak to a lot of women who suffer from a lack of driver confidence. Maybe they don’t drive much nowadays so it doesn’t come as naturally as it did. Or perhaps it’s because of our crowded roads and all too frequently reported incidents of road rage.

Many tell me they’re frightened about tackling motorways, driving a new (strange) car and they often struggle to concentrate at times – on a familiar route to work perhaps or after a bad night’s sleep?

Driving Instructors that understand women

This is why FOXY is recruiting a new Register of Driving Instructors that are sympathetic towards our gender perspective and who are ready, patient and willing to make us better drivers at the end of the day.

The theory is that if your Driving Instructor is measurably better than the rest you’ll likely need fewer lessons to pass and if it’s a more enjoyable time at the wheel, you’ll relax and have fun. Why shouldn’t learning to drive be fun as well as informative, whether it’s your first lessons, completing the PassPlus programme, taking your Advanced Motoring test or blacking up for a confidence or motorway driving refresher course.

So if you can recommend a genuinely female friendly Driving Instructor who’s getting things right for women as is, we’d be happy to FOXY Lady Approve them then introduce them to local lady drivers.

FOXY Lady Approved Driving Instructors

To be FOXY Lady Approved, Driving Instructors need to be approved by the Driver Vehicle and Standards Agency (DVSA) and follow the ADI/DVSA voluntary Code of Practice for starters. We then list additional credentials, the various courses they offer and female feedback. We want to know if the Instructor was punctual, friendly and a good teacher, for example. And whether the car was safe, clean and well-maintained? Marks out of 5 please from 1 as in woeful to 5 as in wonderful…

Finally, in exchange for feedback about any FOXY Lady Approved Driving Instructor, their female pupils can claim a free lifetime Online Member subscription to FOXY Lady Drivers Club as a thank you.

No, driving instructors don’t have to be female to be FOXY Lady Approved in fact this is another area to do with motoring where there are many more men doing this job than females. Which is where FOXY can help again – we want to raise awareness among women drivers that being a Driving Instructor is both a satisfying and meaningful career option. So motorists can have a gender choice when it comes to choosing a local Driving Instructor to suit their needs and expectations.


For More Information

To recommend a genuinely female friendly Instructor (male or female) please email

To see who and where the EARLYBIRD Instructors are on board.

To find out how to join us.

Mary Berry – Queen of Cakes (and Motoring)

Photo thanks to Richard Daniels of Ardquoy.

Not only is Mary Berry an inspiration to wannabe better home bakers but she is now a mature role model to those of us who might want to be a better driver too.

Mary has been a member of the IAM since the 1950s and has just completed her latest Mature Driver Assessment showing that she counts on driving experts to bring her up to date with the latest motoring know-how.

Mary was presented with her certificate for having completed the assessment by IAM RoadSmart chief executive officer Sarah Sillars at the Kop Hill Climb, a Buckinghamshire-based motoring event which raises tens of thousands of pounds for local charities.

To be clear, this assessment isn’t a test and you don’t need to be as mature as Mary Berry to take it. It’s simply a review for those of us who might feel the need to ask driving-related questions and to put right any bad habits we’re bound to have acquired.

In short, anyone who has been driving for more than ten years after passing their test will probably benefit from an IAM Roadsmart refresher driving course which may or may not be called a Mature Driver Assessment.

You can find out more about such choices including the IAM RoadSmart Mature Driver Assessment at their website.


PS: If you know any female who needs help with motoring related matters, including buying, running and maintaining a car, please suggest she joins FOXY Lady Drivers Club. This could be a daughter leaving home, a Mum on her own, any recently widowed or divorced lady or anyone reading this who finds this area intimidating. Our £24 lifetime membership is highly affordable and a really caring gift. Here’s where to join us.

News About the Under 17 Car Club

eloise_IAM_U17clubHaving suggested many times before that the best way to help young drivers become safer drivers is to give them more practice and experience before letting them loose on our busy roads, we are delighted to see a new alliance between The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and the Under 17 Car Club (U17CC).

This good news partnership makes the Under 17 Car Club Charitable Trust an IAM approved training organisation.

The U17CC celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. It is dedicated to ensuring young people get the best grounding in driving skills before they reach their 17th birthday.

Its members meet most Sundays at a variety of locations around the UK including Bovington Camp, Dorset; Castle Combe circuit; Caerwent in Monmouthshire; Devon Drivers’ Centre in Clyst-St-Mary; Long Marston Airfield, Warwickshire; Moreton-in-March, Worcestershire and Throckmorton Airfield, Warwickshire, where they learn to drive in a safe off-road environment from the age of 11.

Paul Silverwood, president of the Under 17 Car Club, said: “This is a remarkable opportunity for the leading young driver charity to work alongside the leading charity for experienced advanced motorists.”

Shaun Cronin, IAM regional quality manager, said: “For a young person, getting behind the wheel years before they can legally take to the road is a one-off opportunity. But this is about having fun too – members get the opportunity to spend their Sundays driving a wide variety of cars, lorries and buses – and even learning advanced skills on a race track.

“By working together, the Under 17 Car Club can prevent a lot of crashes and, hopefully, we can save young lives.”

Road accidents remain the biggest killer of young people in the UK. In 2013 there were 191 people under 24 killed and 20,003 injured as drivers and riders of cars and motorbike

In the past five years (2009-13) there were 1,037 people under 24 killed and 120,958 injured on UK roads as drivers and riders.


The photo is of 17-year-old Eloise Peabody-Rolfe from the Under 17 Car Club who is also the IAM’s Young Driver Ambassador.


Advanced driving courses

Sandra Macdonald-Ames offers feedback  during advanced training
Sandra Macdonald-Ames offers feedback during advanced training

Last year saw the 80th anniversary of the introduction of the UK driving test when the very first one was taken in 1935, for the equivalent of 37.5p, by a Mr J Beene. Apart from during World War 2, when testing was suspended, literally millions have followed suit.

The UK operates a system where we can pass our test as early as 17 (16 under certain circumstances) and that’s it, provided we do not come to the attention of the authorities, perhaps through a speeding offence or a collision.

Just imagine how much has changed on our roads during the last twenty roads – surely refresher training should be a necessary discipline for us all to take to keep up with these changes?

In many of our working lives continual professional development (CPD) is commonplace and in some cases it’s mandatory.
And for good reason, as it helps us to manage health and safety, introduce working practices and learn about the latest innovations. Driving for most of us is one of the most dangerous activities we do on a daily basis, but we barely give it a second thought. It is perhaps considered a rite of passage into adulthood and just a necessity for the rest of us. Yet only a handful of drivers go on to develop their driving further and take a more advanced test or even have a refresher session.

So what stops us from taking our driving further? Having spoken to hundreds of women drivers over the last decade, common replies are often: “I know I should… I thought about it but wasn’t sure where to go… I don’t like the thought of being told I’m not good enough… I’m too busy…”

So this blog, based on an article from award-winning UK breakdown service Gem Motoring Assist, is designed to help answer those questions, and encourage more women drivers to take the plunge and come up smiling afterwards.

What happens on an advanced course?

Once you have decided how you wish to progress to advanced driving, you will be given the contact details of your trainer. The trainers and examiners are always highly experienced volunteers and have a passion for driving they wish to share with others. The training is conducted at a pre-agreed location and time to suit you. You can expect a number of sessions over several weeks, and will usually be driving your own vehicle. Many organisations do not put a time limit on the number of sessions you can have. After each session you can go away and practise what you have learned on your own.

The training itself will cover as many different road types and environments as possible, and will look at positioning, smoothness, safety, eco driving and perhaps a better understanding of the newer technologies fast being introduced into our vehicles.

If you wish, you can then take an advanced test which is often with an independent examiner, but only when you feel ready. It takes about 90 minutes to complete, again locally to you, and you are given the result immediately, along with feedback. If you are unsuccessful you can simply take it again in the future after perhaps a little more practice. No one needs to know and your licence is still 100% intact. If you prefer, you can just have the training itself.

What’s the point of taking an advanced test?

Everyone has a different reason for taking an advanced test (mine followed a stressful, not my fault, road accident), but some of the advantages are:

+ Improving driving confidence on today’s busy and testing roads.

+ A more economical driving style – expect your fuel consumption to improve by between 10 and 15 per cent, depending on your existing style.

+ Engine wear and tear will be reduced, as you may be changing gear or braking less.

+ You are statistically less likely to be involved in a collision, as you will develop a higher level of awareness and anticipation of hazards.

+ Insurance companies may apply discounts. It is worth discussing possibilities with your own insurer as many will recognise qualifications from the main advanced driver companies.

+ From an employer’s point of view, advanced drivers can reduce company risk and, potentially, insurance liability.

+ From an employee’s point of view, this looks good on the CV.

Finally, this is a great opportunity to brush up on current road laws or new signs by needing to look though the latest Highway Code. This is updated every few years and could be used in court when motorists clearly do not have up-to-date knowledge. Ignorance of the law is not a defence as is not knowing this fact…

Advanced driving choices

Some local authorities offer free or discounted one-hour assessments for drivers in specific age categories. Contact your local road safety unit to find out about current schemes.

Put ‘advanced driving’ into Google and a list of suppliers will appear, allowing you to search in more detail.

GEM Motoring Assist has joined forces with RoSPA to offer a one-hour assessment for drivers of any age. Check out the GEM website or call RoSPA 0121 248 2099. These types of assessments are confidential and there is no pass or fail.

Club members can save 10% off IAM courses and this is how I got on taking my Skill For Life course.

Alternatively you can contact the Driving Instructors Association ( for a list of qualified instructors near you (that are also regularly checked by the DVSA for quality). In addition to PassPlus they also offer a special motorway training option and can build up your confidence and knowledge which might be appropriate when returning to driving after divorce, bereavement, ill health or being involved in an accident.


NB: Club membership includes a copy of the latest Highway Code as well as lots of reminders about important road safety-related motoring matters.

NNB: Surprisingly for some, The Highway Code isn’t just for motorists. This is why motorcyclists and pedestrians need to read it too.

How to be a better driver in Bristol

bristol IAM sflI’ve written before about my IAM Skill For Life Advanced Motoring course and how much I learned and have benefited since.

But I might have liked a choice of doing this on my own or as part of a group of like-minded others in the same boat.

And despite being happy with my 1:1 arrangement with a brilliant female Observer who has become a friend I might have chosen the latter for the camaraderie…

So I was delighted to meet Martin Evans at the IAM conference in Birmingham in October. Martin is the Secretary of Bristol Advanced Motorists where they organise precisely this group support for local motorists. And are catering for an equal spread of men and women as you can see from the photo.

Let’s start with the costs. The Skill For Life programme costs £149 and Club members get a 10% discount. This includes everything you need to take and pass the advanced driving test including as many 1:1 sessions with an Observer as necessary (usually 10-ish), local IAM support, 12 months IAM membership, the advanced test fee and the excellent ‘How to be a Better Driver’ handbook.

Bristol Advanced Motorists

Bristol Advanced Motorists organise courses where Skill For Life participants come together in a classroom situation to refresh and top up their motoring knowledge and driving skills. Having bought the Skill For Life package, this is free and here is how the group option works.

The course dates for 2016 MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE and are as follows:
Wednesday 20 April
Wednesday 13 July
Wednesday 19 October

1/ Two seminars are held on a Wednesday evening in North Bristol.

2/ Skill For Life participants (called Associates from now on) are then allocated an Observer (from the gallery) to arrange as many drives as they need (within reason!) in preparation for the Advanced Test (which they may or may not take but will be encouraged to).


3/ In a third seminar they ‘Meet An Examiner’ to get a better understanding of what is required and of course ask questions.

4/ In between all this most Associates arrange drives weekly or fortnightly and take between 6 and 12 observed drives spread over 3 – 6 months before they are ready for the test.


With a 90% pass rate to be proud of and the recipient of the IAM Group Achievement award (out of 200 groups) at the 2015 conference this is a formula that works and is fun.

I wholeheartedly recommend this to this blog audience. And of course this option is equally available and beneficial to men and women alike.


For more information

Visit the IAM main website to buy Skill For Life from the Shop. NB: FOXY Club members get a 10% discount which they should book from within the Members Area of this website.

And if you live in Bristol, you can then visit the IAM Bristol website and book onto a course to suit, well in advance.