Tag Archives: IAM

How to cope with and avoid a motorway car break down

Members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club get free car fitness checks at their nearest participating FOXY Lady Approved garage
Members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club get free car fitness checks at their nearest participating FOXY Lady Approved garage

In a recent survey carried out by Good Housekeeping magazine, 44% of women admitted to feeling anxious about driving on motorways.

So the thought of breaking down on one is likely to be a further female fear factor, knowing the risks any motorist runs, parked up on any hard shoulder.

Here are some useful tips, stimulated by a recent IAM Press Release, to remind women to check their cars regularly and incorporating our added experience here.

We hope you’ll find them useful.

Tips re a motorway break down

1) Ensure the coolant and washer fluids are topped up, that the oil level is correct and your car tyres are safe and legal by checking your car’s condition regularly. These actions contribute to your car’s reliability whatever the journey and even more importantly on motorways when your car is travelling faster than it does on other roads.

This tip is a salutary reminder to me of the time (pre-FOXY) I didn’t check my VW Golf’s fluid levels in advance of a motorway journey BECAUSE I’d had my car serviced the day before. I didn’t think I needed to. I was travelling from Sussex to Cumbria, in February, and the roads were particularly filthy after an earlier now defrosted snowfall. I joined the M25, picked up speed and as the windscreen smeared in front of me, in the centre lane by now, I applied my windscreen washer switch to find the water tank was empty. My windscreen was virtually opaque by the time I was able to pull into the inside lane safely, when I limped to the next exit. I could have caused and/or been involved in a nasty accident here for something so simple to check. Amazingly the service checklist “Filled up windscreen washer tank” had been ticked and the dealership stuck to this story when I complained.

2) Keep a high visibility jacket, waterproof clothing and a fully charged mobile phone in your vehicle. Or a charger to keep it topped up. You never know when you will need these.

You may have a need for a camera too, so if your phone doesn’t take photos, keep a disposable one in the car as well.

3) If you suspect a mechanical problem looming (and we hope you’ll have time to react), leave the motorway at the next junction or stop at the nearest service station whichever is first. Only in a real emergency should you pull over onto the hard shoulder, parking as far left as possible to avoid slowing down traffic.

4) Once you have pulled over, switch on your hazard warning lights so other road users are aware that you have stopped.

5) Use the emergency roadside telephone where you need to call for help. The distance to the nearest phone will be marked on the white posts on the hard shoulder – the reason for this is important. The operator will then know precisely where you are if you use this phone, whereas they mightn’t know exactly where you are if you use your mobile.

6) Make sure you and any passengers leave your vehicle by the left-hand side as soon as possible. Stay behind a barrier or up the embankment. If you feel threatened, get back in, lock the doors and call 999 for the police. But remember your extreme vulnerability here. Too many cars are hit from behind by motorists we can only assume do not realise when cars ahead are stationary.

7) NEVER attempt a DIY repair or wheel change on the hard shoulder. Your breakdown service or the Police will tow you off the motorway where necessary to a suitable garage or safe repair location.

8) Make sure you know IF you have a spare wheel and keep this at the correct pressure as the other four tyres. If you don’t have one (and few newer cars do) make sure you know where your tyre repair spray can lives as well as your locking wheel nut so the garage/recovery service can make good or change a wheel if necessary. Remember in future that runflats warn you of punctures, giving you 50 miles in distance to drive at a maximum of 50mph to sort out a change of wheel. That is very reassuring ie no tyre blow outs on motorways. Please see this blog for more information about a new runflat-equivalent tyre called DriveGuard – well worth investing in, given the choice.

NB: You may not be able to stop on a Smart Motorway – this is what they call stretches of motorway where the hard shoulder is used to ease traffic flow at peak travel times.

Neil Greig from the IAM explains…

“On Smart Motorways the hard shoulder is used as an extra lane. If your car develops a problem on this type of motorway then leave at the next exit, or pull into a motorway service area.”

Always be prepared for a car breakdown

There is no simple way to minimise the fear of a motorway breakdown. Running a well maintained car is key (a high percentage of breakdowns are tyre related) but being prepared for unexpected breakdowns means you know what to do and in this way you can avoid the experience becoming too traumatic before you set off safely again.

If you’d like to JOIN FOXY Lady Drivers Club to enjoy motoring services, including FREE car fitness checks from selected FOXY Lady Approved businesses, ladies evenings covering car maintenance and tyre issues, and trustworthy advice like this.

In short, the subscription benefits of FOXY Lady Drivers Club include
+ preferential rates for car insurance
+ exclusive new car deals (Suzuki and Citroen)
+ regular money saving offers
+ VIP services* at female friendly approved garages & dealers
+ a friendly motoring helpdesk
+ expert legal, claims and accident advice
+ a monthly e-newsletter packed with news & female reviews.
PLUS a copy of the latest Official Highway Code.
*free car checks, member discounts and local ladies’ evenings.

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 (driving.org) 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.

Ladies evening in Dunstable

Changing Wheel_thurlownunnWe’re often asked about courses for women who want to know how to DIY re car maintenance so here’s a good one for ladies in Dunstable this time. These are not sales occasions, more community evenings with women’s road safety at the top of the agenda.

We’ve all felt uneasy at times, hearing about others being approached by a stranger in a deserted car park late at night or breaking down by the side of the road and having another car pull up alongside…

Fortunately these situations are few and far between, but they do happen and we all need to know what to do to avoid becoming a victim should it ever be our turn.

Vauxhall retailer Thurlow Nunn in High Street South, Dunstable, in Bedfordshire, is organising a free ‘Women in the Driving Seat’ evening on Wednesday, November 18.

Practical instruction on personal awareness and self-protection, basic car care and maintenance for beginners and self-help will be top of the agenda. Advice will also be given on reducing the risks women face when driving for work or socially, including dealing with so-called ‘road rage’ in other drivers.

Personal safety

The increase in road traffic in the UK – up by 50 per cent in the last two decades – is an important factor and this is set to rise by an alarming 100 per cent in the next 20 years, predict motoring experts. In a survey of more than 3,000 UK motorists by YouGov for an insurance company, it was revealed that nearly 1 in 10 (9%) have been threatened with physical violence and over half (56%) of drivers questioned agreed that road users are generally less courteous than five years ago.

Even more alarming was the revelation that over a fifth (21%) of road rage sufferers have argued with another motorist because of road rage, while 36% admitted it makes them drive more aggressively. Almost one in ten (8%) said they’ve followed another driver as a result.

“Personal safety and security are imperative for everyone, particularly women, today. The menace of aggressive, inconsiderate driving on our roads seems to be increasing at the moment and we believe that all it takes is a little care and consideration to avoid situations which can escalate into the kinds of tragic incidents we have all heard about recently,” said Ivan Pletersky, general manager of Thurlow Nunn Dunstable.

“We want everybody to enjoy their independence and freedom and be able to travel safely and confidently on our roads. We hope that by highlighting the risks facing women drivers, it will provide them with a wealth of information and practical advice,” he added.

Tackling road rage

In addition to car safety, the psychology behind car confidence will be explored by ex-Police Chief Inspector and human behaviour specialist Vic Botterill, with practical advice on safe driving and combating the hazards of modern driving, including so-called ‘road rage’, which members of the audience can join in with. Advice will also be given about the frequent causes of aggressive, dangerous driving and ‘motorway madness’, with the audience encouraged to share their own experiences and how they could have been avoided.

But the course is not designed to encourage motorists to take the law into their own hands emphasised Ivan: “Our Women in the Driving Seat evening is free to anyone who wishes to steer clear of trouble or be able to deal with their own, personal ‘road rage’.” he explained.

Self defence role play

During the event, volunteers from the audience will be invited to take part in self defence role-play by self protection specialist and head of the Realistic Self Defence Organisation, Andy Williams. They will be shown how to beat the bullies behind the wheel and, if diplomacy fails, how everyday objects to hand such as car keys, pens and possibly deodorant sprays can come in very handy.

Representatives from the Dunstable branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) will also be there to discuss their organisation’s various advanced driving courses with interested visitors. And there will be a representative from FOXY too.

Few vehicles come equipped with full tool-kits nowadays, so Thurlow Nunn’s service technicians will also offer visitors practical hands-on instruction on dealing with roadside emergencies, routine car maintenance and car safety checks. The evening is free and all will be encouraged to roll up their sleeves and ‘have a go’ themselves under the guidance of expert motor technicians, promises the dealership. Gloves will be provided for hygiene purposes.

Anybody interested in attending the free Women in the Driving Seat event at Thurlow Nunn on Wednesday, November 18 can telephone Ivan Pletersky on 01582 575944 or e-mail: ivanpletersky@thurlownunn.co.uk to reserve places.