A personal message from Stuart Haythorn: IAM RoadSmart Area Service Delivery Manager

May I take this opportunity to thank you for all your time and enthusiasm in maintaining and developing your group which continues to support IAM RoadSmart members in their desire to be more skilled and ultimately safer drivers. These are unprecedented times which have placed huge restrictions on our lives, and I hope that they have the desired effect of quickly reducing the COVID19 threat so that we can return to some kind of normality. I look forward to getting back out on the bike and in the car, to enjoy the freedom that they both bring and return to meeting up with you all and sharing the road again. In the meantime, like the considerable numbers of IAM RS members who have already registered, I have signed up to become an NHS volunteer and also for my local Bloodbike team.

My wish for you over this period is to look after yourself and those around you. Maintain your close relationship with your group and IAM members, keep those cars in tip-top condition, and prepare for us getting back out onto the road to celebrate what we love – driving and riding.

Stay safe- stay healthy

Take care on your bike

Many of us have been out on bicycles recently to obtain some exercise and it is a pleasure to have peace and quiet on the roads.  However, several issues have been observed:

  1. The air feels much cleaner – a positive step with no planes and fewer cars around;
  2. Potholes are becoming larger and deeper and you need to avoid them when on a pushbike – road maintenance may well take a lower priority, so look as far ahead as you can and make a plan (sound familiar?);
  3. Some cars are going much faster than the speed limit and not stopping at junctions (one of our Observers watched two cars blatantly going through a red light on Saturday), presumably because the driver thinks they are the only car on the road.

So please take care, use all your observation skills, choose routes to try to avoid major roads even in these times of relatively empty roads. And carry out a full POWDERY check on your machine before venturing out.

IAM RoadSmart urges drivers to undertake vehicle maintenance checks

Today (25th March) the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that due to the Coronavirus lockdown vehicle owners will be granted a 6-month exemption from MOT testing, allowing them to continue to travel on essential journeys while minimising the need for social contact with garage and testing centre employees.

From 30 March onwards, all cars, vans and motorcycles which would require an MOT will be exempted from needing a test for 6 months. However, the DfT has stressed that vehicles must still be kept in a roadworthy condition during this period, and garages will remain open for repair work where essential.

Richard Gladman, Head of Driving and Riding Standards at IAM RoadSmart, has these useful tips on how to help ensure your vehicle remains in good condition for any essential journeys by carrying out these simple safety checks:

  • Tyres

There’s no denying that your car’s tyres are extremely important, so you must inspect them frequently for cuts and bulges – and remember to include the tread depth. The minimum tread depth on a car is 1.6mm and you can test this using the ‘20p test.’ Simply put a 20p coin into the tyre groove and see if the outer band of the coin is still visible or not. If it isn’t, your tyre is above the legal limit, and if it is, your tyre needs replacing. Remember to check the tyre pressures as well, preferably when cold.   

  • Oil

Checking your engine oil levels is quick and easy with many new cars now having a self-checking system in place. If you have to do it the traditional way then make sure your engine is switched off and cool. You can check you have the right amount of oil by using the dipstick. Bear in mind that overfilling will also cause damage, so top up slowly and check the level regularly.

  • Lights

Making sure your car lights are in good working order is essential. When it comes to checking them, you should make sure that your headlights, indicators, reversing lights, fog light and brake lights all work properly. This check is simple, but you may find it easier to ask someone to help you. Alternatively, you could park near a window or garage door and use the reflection to see if your lights are fully operational.

  • Water and screen wash

Almost as bad as running out of oil is running low on water – also known as engine coolant. This can usually be checked visually by looking at the side of the coolant reservoir. If the level is low or your temperature gauge shows the engine is running hotter than usual you may need to check the levels, but ideally this should be done by a professional as the systems are under pressure and can be very hot. If you do have to top up, remember to carefully follow the information in your car manual.

Filling up the screen wash is quick and easy and it could save your life. Being able to see ahead of you is one of the most important aspects of driving. The earlier you can spot a hazard, the more chance you have to react to it safely and appropriately. Don’t ignore that reminder displayed on your dashboard.

Richard Gladman said: “The break in MOT testing must not be seen as an excuse to neglect your regular maintenance. If there is an issue with your vehicle, get it fixed. Garages remain open for essential repairs, although they will be working under restrictions. You do not want to be stranded at the side of the road, or worse involved in a collision, because you took a chance.

“The police may also be more active in stopping vehicles during this period to check on the purpose of your journey. If they pick up on any obvious faults, it’s likely they will choose to issue a fine or even seize your vehicle. Regular checks will help you stay safe, avoid being stranded and allow your essential travel to take place.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“We must ensure those on the frontline of helping the nation combat COVID19 are able to do so. Allowing this temporary exemption from vehicle testing will enable vital services such as deliveries to continue, frontline workers to get to work, and people to get essential food and medicine. Safety is key, which is why garages will remain open for essential repair work.”

Pothole investment will be vital to ensure the economy improves says IAM RoadSmart

IAM RoadSmart has expressed concern over new figures released today that show the number of potholes repaired by local authorities last year fell by a fifth.

New figures from the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) annual survey of councils show that 1.5 million potholes were filled in 2019/20, compared with 1.9 million in the previous 12 months.  Getting all roads back into a “reasonable, steady state” would cost £11.14 billion and take 11 years.

Previous surveys of more than 7,000 IAM RoadSmart members showed a clear majority (88%) thought the condition of our roads had deteriorated and over half those surveyed (56%) said they had to take avoiding action on every journey to dodge potholes.

Nearly half (over 3,400 respondents) said they had experienced damage to their vehicle as a result of hitting a pothole. Some 27% said they needed to steer around a pothole every day.

The UK’s largest road safety charity recently welcomed the £2.5 billion shot-in-the-arm for filling the huge backlog of potholes – but warned at the time of the budget announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in March this year that a long-term plan is urgently needed to cure the problem for good.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “Pothole damage is not just inconvenient and expensive, it is a massive safety concern.

Now is not the time to divert essential local authority resources away from the number one priority of keeping communities safe and cared for. However, drivers and riders pay a premium through their taxes for investment in roads and any long-term diversion of funds will cost more in the long run. Local authorities must consider now the resources that will be needed to restore the UK’s roads, so that when traffic volumes return to their normal levels, the road network  can play its part in getting the economy moving again.”

Coronavirus (COVID-19) updated 23 March

Following significant changes in Government advice about Coronavirus (Covid-19), IAM RoadSmart’s senior management team has met and agreed the following advice and guidance for groups, observers and examiners.

With immediate effect, GAM have been advised to:

  • Stop observed runs for associates, and
  • Stop all meetings and social gatherings, including AGMs and recruitment activity.

Advanced driving and riding tests and assessments are suspended until further notice. All re-qualifications for Local and National Observers, Fellows and Masters are also suspended until further notice.

Where an associate’s membership expires, IAM RoadSmart will extend it, at no additional cost, for up to a further six months to enable all associates to complete their coaching and take their test without disadvantage. IAM RoadSmart will not be providing refunds of course fees. 

IAM Roadsmart will continue to operate the Customer Care phone lines from 8.30am until 6pm, Monday to Friday. The senior management team is meeting daily by conference call and will continue to update us regularly as the situation and government advice develops.

The GAM committee will follow the advice from IAM RoadSmart and keep GAM members and Associates informed when activities may be resumed. We thank you for your understanding during this period and sincerely hope that you will remain in good health over the coming weeks.

New research – Infotainment safety dangers

A new IAM RoadSmart simulator study has found that in-car infotainment systems can impair driving performance to potentially dangerous levels.

The study, entitled “Interacting with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay when driving – the effect on driver performance”  was commissioned by IAM RoadSmart and undertaken by TRL, with support from the FIA and the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund. It found that that the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems, designed to improve road safety, are failing and in fact impair reaction times behind the wheel more than alcohol and cannabis use.

Drivers completed a series of three drives on the same simulated test route to assess the level of impact of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. 

Results showed that reaction times at motorway speeds increased average stopping distances to between four and five car lengths. Drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 16 seconds while driving (equivalent to a distance of more than 500 metres at 70 mph), and using touch control resulted in reaction times that were even worse than texting while driving.  Use the link below to see the full report.


Well deserved test pass for Shane

Shane Hackett impressed his IAM examiner a couple of days ago and came home with a well earned pass. His examiner commended a very safe and systematic drive which easily met the grade for the advanced test. Many congratulations to Shane from all of us at GAM – another excellent result.

Success for Graeme – two F1rsts in the family

Graeme Blackmore passed his test with a well deserved F1rst recently and matches the excellent result achieved by his wife Elaine a few weeks ago. Two F1rsts in the family now! Graeme was particularly pleased to get such a good result using his Citroen C1 – it’s clearly possible to put in an advanced drive in all sorts of vehicles as Graeme has demonstrated. Well done Graeme, from all of us at GAM.

Success for Paul on 29th February

Paul Robinson passed his advanced driving test last week on a wet and windy Saturday morning and put in an excellent performance. His Examiner said “Paul produced a really good drive for me today. It was safe, smooth and systematic and displayed that his drive is well above average”. Well done Paul, from all of us at GAM,