11 December 2023

Eradicating the element of surprise


I’m a personal injury lawyer and represent motorcyclists injured on our roads. I’m also an advanced motorcyclist after completing my training and reaching the standard a few years ago. Earlier this year, I decided to enrol on The Advanced Driving course with IAM. (The Institute of Advanced Motorists). 

The driving factor (pardon the pun) for me, was two-fold. One personal and one professional.

The personal one is that I will soon be a grandmother. I have been driving for 43 years and considered myself to be a safe driver, but how safe was I? Could I be trusted to carry my grandchild in my car and give their parents the confidence in my ability to keep the baby safe. We all develop bad habits; mine were the occasional braking on a corner after entering too quickly and crossing my hands over the steering wheel.

The professional reason for doing the course is that I’m a curious lawyer and to best represent my client’s, I need to know in detail why they were injured. Why did a driver pull out in front of them? Why are motorcyclists there to be seen but not seen?  Having witnessed the appalling standard of driving first hand when so many motorcyclists are injured through no fault of their own, I wanted to understand how I could better deliver my service to motorcyclists and others.

My observer, Fraser Brydon was cool, and we got along like a house on fire. Granted my first drive was sketchy, but he had the good grace not to shout out. By coaching session 8, he even looked relaxed. My driving improved beyond all recognition thanks to his guidance and patience as well as a little determination on my part. I was very nervous on my test day but that’s to be expected. It’s a bit like a Court case, you’re always nervous at the start despite the detailed preparation. The examiner was kind, and I came away with a good pass. However, it’s not the pass that I am so delighted about, it’s that my driving has changed and it’s changed for good.  

So, what did I learn and why will it make me an improved driver and a better lawyer? Three things come to mind and each a question that Fraser drummed into me and expected an answer. I learned that so often drivers ask themselves the first two but fail to nail the third.

The questions are:-

  • Q - What do you see?

  • Q - What does it mean to you and?

  • Q - What are you going to do about it?

In a nutshell, I was trained to eradicate the element of surprise. How often have we been surprised by the presence of another road user, whether it’s a cyclist ahead in dappled light wearing dark clothing or a motorcyclist overtaking from behind that we didn’t clock well beforehand.

Of course, the primary goal of an advanced driving course is to instil a heightened sense of safety on the road. IAM places a strong emphasis on defensive driving techniques, hazard perception, and risk management. I learned how to anticipate potential dangers and respond proactively, creating a safer driving environment for myself and others using the Police System of Driver Control, IPSGA - Information, Position, Speed, Gear and Acceleration.

Armed with my new-found driving skills, I’m not only a better driver, but I am an improved lawyer because I have the skill to ask even more questions. By asking the right questions and by being curious, you get important answers that form the foundation of your case.

Enrolling in an advanced driving course with The Institute of Advanced Motorists is more than just a commitment to safe driving, it's an investment in personal development. At RTA Law LLP, we have four advanced motorcyclists and now two advanced drivers. I have encouraged all my colleagues at RTA Law to do the course and I am delighted to say they have accepted the invitation enthusiastically. We have a desire to build knowledge within our firm. That improved knowledge makes us more informed lawyers.

The course absolutely changed the way I drive for the better. If I am better able to protect others, particularly the vulnerable, then that is so worthwhile. Of course, the best motorcyclists and drivers never stop learning and that also applies to the best lawyers. I would like to continue with my training and learn even more. Truly understanding techniques of safe driving opened my mind.

My advice to any driver or rider - check it out and just do it. It’s a life saver.

Brenda Mitchell


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