Today I had to attend a speed awareness course in sunny Telford because a few weeks ago I was caught on camera travelling at 34 miles per hour through and 30-mile per hour speed limit in Church Stretton. I’d been late returning from Craven Arms to Crowmoor School fuelled by good coffee. I hadn’t seen the man in the van.
The course was four-hours long so I had plenty of time for quiet, in the toilet, contemplation about the course during the breaks. I had three thoughts.
Dads in disguise
Of course my experience is limited to just one occasion but we had two trainers and they both taught in the style of dads. The course is delivered in a way as not to admonish or judge but to advise and pass on the wisdom of years of experience. There is something secondary school like about the course. It is made simple to make it palatable and also to aid retention of information. This was a good thing. Both trainers were men in their late 50s or early 60s. Both were driving instructors. Both had a vast knowledge and experience of driving (just like your average dad) and a bucket load of anecdotes. So both taught like dads giving their grown-up children tips on how to be safer drivers.
Tips they gave included:
1. Wheels on Tarmac
If you can see the wheels of the car in front of you on the tarmac when at a junction (i.e. when stationery), then you are at a safe distance. Well done, you!
Coast is an acronym that will help you become a better driver, my child. It stands for: Concentration, Observation, Anticipation, Space, Time.
3. The 2-Second Rule
This rule is your most useful rule, it will apply in any speed limit. This is the amount of time that should pass between the car in front of your passing any given object and you passing it, in case you aren’t sure.
4. Stop and Give Way signs
These are the same sizes all over the world, except in one awkward country – Japan. Oh how much I wished I’d driven when I lived in Japan because then I’d have known this.
People resort to their fourteen-year-old self when they are on a course
This includes me. I hate this about myself but whenever I am on a course I become the class clown. I’m the joker who has the cleverest answer (and never the right answer). I’m the one that makes everyone laugh and I get a boost when everyone laughs. I am also the distractor. I have to fight the urge to pass a note to the person next to me with a factitious comment about the course leader. In addition, I have to sit on my hands to stop myself either fiddling or drawing the course leader. This, I find really hard.
I’m not the only person who struggles to fight off their fourteen-year-old self I am sure.
Today we had the popular girls who immediately spotted each other and sat together looking all perfect and tanned, swapping stories about boyfriends and cars. And this isn’t the first time they’ve been on this course of course. Sooo boring. Here we go again.
We had the vocal know-it-all who knew more than that course leader: ‘No, that’s not right, today tractors can get up to speeds of 60 plus miles an hour.’ ‘I’ve definitely seen signs of 70 miles per hour speed limit in England, it was in Nottingham.’
Also, we had the token silent but deadly know-it-all who also knew more than that course leader. Rather than shout it out though and embarrass the poor chap in front of the class, he had a habit of muttering the correct answer under his breath so the class could all just about hear but the course leader could not. In a way, he is kinder than the vocal know-it-all type.
And a course will always have its confidents. Today these consisted of a group of young twenty-something men. They sat, slouched, and oozed through their pours ‘we should not be here, this is stupid, we know how to drive, thanks’. I think they left with their opinion changed at least a little.
There’s more. Every course will have the eager-to-pleases. We had one of these today. These are the swots of olden days. They read the Highway Code the night before. They know all the answers, even to the very hard questions such as: ‘How long can a temporary road sign remain temporary before it has to be put on a post and made permanent?’ (I bet you don’t know the answer without googling.) They glow with pleasure when the course leader praises their knowledge.
It doesn’t matter what course you are attending, whether it be a computer course, a how-to-be-a school governor course (the last course I attended) or a speed awareness course. Sane, normally mature, grown-ups will turn into their fourteen-year-old selves. I do it every time.
These courses are GOOD
Finally, I hate to admit it, because I went today with a heavy heart and my tail between my legs ready to feel ashamed of my reckless behaviour but the course is a good thing. I learnt a lot. The two trainers were enthusiastic (despite probably teaching this course a lot with little variation in content). They were good dads. I hope I will be a better driver as a result, at least one who is more aware of their surroundings than they were before. And I got to meet some interesting people from Telford including the very knowledgeable lorry driver called Mark who really did know a lot about driving.
I just hope I don’t get to do it again. Once is enough for obvious reasons.