The Club has been working with the IAM to promote its confidence courses and Skill For Life programme. We also attend women’s driving events together as we share the same supportive agenda here. During this process we have become aware of the excellent PR that the IAM is responsible for, making the rest of us stop and think about commonsense motoring matters we mightn’t consider otherwise. This led us to Caroline Rheubottom and this interview, so we could find out more about the important job she does in this area.
What is your role at the IAM?
I currently work as one of two communications officers for the IAM. So, in a nutshell, I produce roughly half of all communicative material for the company, including press releases, newsletters and reactive comments to stories in the news, amongst other things. I also act as the social media manager for the IAM, meaning that I get to spend a large portion of every week tweeting, posting and blogging about everything motoring.
What would a typical day be (if there is such a thing)?
A typical day for me at the IAM starts and finishes with taking calls from journalists from outlets such as the Times, the Daily Mail and the BBC, as well as motoring industry magazines and websites. I have to be at the ready from 9am to provide details on IAM policy, to advise on Advanced Driving and Riding and to arrange interviews between our key spokespeople and media outlets. Media relations is a huge part of our job in the press office.
By the end of the day, several interviews will have been organised, thousands of words will have been written, we will have amassed hundreds of retweets and no one will have broken a sweat… or I’m awarding the communications team far too much credit!
Shrink that down to size, mix in a little statistical analysis, some partnership work with our friends in the automotive industry, and too many cups of tea to count and you have a typical day at the IAM.
Knowing the accident statistics, what are the main gender differences you’ve observed when it comes to driving style?
Being a woman who is not only an Advanced Driver, but an employee within the motoring industry, I am all too aware of the terrible stereotypes that people often apply to women drivers, and how damaging, not to mention inaccurate, they are. For this reason, the differences between men and women in terms of driving and accident stats have been a particular interest of mine. The facts are, in terms of accident stats, women are safer drivers. They are involved in fewer reported road traffic collisions resulting in injury, serious injury or death, receive fewer fines and, as a collective group, have fewer points on their licences. For this reason, I believe that women deserve lower car insurance premiums. Speaking only for myself, I believe that it is unfair that EU legislation has punished women through their insurance for the sake of gender equality.
How might black box technology reduce road accidents and insurance premiums, based on your recent experience driving a Citroen C1?
Accident stats show that, quite simply, learner drivers don’t crash. In all likelihood this is due to the fact that there is always a supervisor, whether it be an instructor or a parent, keeping a watchful eye from the passenger seat. It is when they pass the test that they become a risk.
Black box technology has got a bad press, particularly amongst younger drivers, for being a sort of digital ‘Big Brother’ – seen as a technological method to encroach upon young drivers’ new-found independence and freedom to drive solo. The information collected by the black box is not only fed back to the insurance company, but also back to the driver’s parents (if they so please), enhancing the perception of Big Brother sitting on your dashboard.
Though black box technology may not be viewed favourably by many young drivers, I do believe that its presence within the vehicle will have the effect of making the driver more cautious and less likely to take risks, as not only will the in-car ‘spy camera’ pick it up, but it will also inform mum and dad, and could also result in an increase in next year’s insurance premium. For this reason, I believe that black boxes have the potential to make a real difference to the accident stats of young drivers, and therefore also to their insurance premiums.
What impresses you most about the IAM’s Skill For Life programme?
I took my Skill for Life when I was 17. It is a fact that people in the 17 to 24 category are the most unsafe on the roads, and that one in five young drivers will have a crash within their first year of driving. I am proud to say that I have never been involved in a collision, and I do put this largely down to my Advanced Driving qualification.
Skill for Life isn’t about teaching you to be over-cautious or hyper-vigilant – it is about coaching you in how to handle your vehicle, how to observe and plan ahead, how to get the best out of the roads and, most importantly, in having confidence. Upon passing the driving test, the majority of people will feel nervous about the prospect of solo driving and venturing out onto roads that they are unfamiliar with, in conditions that they have not experienced before. Advanced Driving builds on your driving skills to make you the safest and most positive you can be, which will in turn prepare you to be able to handle any kind of driving condition you come across.
What advice would you give novice female motorists who are nervous about driving alone, or who have recently been involved in an accident?
Early in your driving career, it is likely that at one time or another you will feel nervous about driving with no one else in the vehicle. And being involved in a collision, however big or small, is likely to knock the confidence of even the most skilled driver.
Research has shown that the most common reason for a woman to seek out further driver training is to increase her confidence. IAM driver training is designed not only to teach you new skills and techniques, but more importantly to increase your confidence behind the wheel and to boost your enjoyment of driving. The more confidence you have, the less nervous you will feel about driving solo, or about venturing into unfamiliar territory, and so you will get a great deal more enjoyment out of your driving experience.
Alternatively, if further driver training is not something that is feasible for you, I would advise that the key to becoming a more confident driver is, quite simply, experience. Studies have shown that drivers beyond retirement age are some of the safest on the roads – this is due to their wealth of experience and knowledge that they have amassed during their driving careers. So, put simply, the more time you can spend out on different kinds of roads in different kinds of conditions, the better.
Thank you Caroline for sharing your very foxy and well informed advice and views. It’s good to see that we have this level of knowledge and expertise making sure the media gets a balanced perspective when it comes to gender motoring matters.