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Environment : Road Safety Last Updated: 2, Apr 2018 - 10:02

Refresher Course Offered To Older Drivers
By Noel Gibbons
13, Apr 2017 - 22:07

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No one will accept they're a bad driver, but sometimes a gentle reminder of basic skills can do your confidence a world of good. "There is one thing no man will admit he cannot do well: drive," said road safety officer Noel Gibbons. But surely it's time for men (and women) to rethink this statement and accept that for most of us there's room for improvement.

So the road safety office of Mayo County Council and the Men's Shed, Ballinrobe, co-ordinated by Grace McGee, who are piloting a refresher course for mature drivers. It will include an hour's practical driving session to build confidence and practice behind the wheel

In our working lives we realise the value of ongoing training to help us adapt to changing circumstances and avoid getting rusty, so surely we should take the same approach to our driving?

Increasingly, people who have held a licence for a number of years are realising that they would benefit from extra tuition and are deciding to take a refresher course.

This is fairly common in the case of older women, who have left most of the driving to their husbands. Now, because of bereavement or their partner's illness, they need to get behind the wheel again.

Other reasons include wanting to overcome common motoring fears such as motorways or night driving, getting a job that involves high mileages, needing to regain confidence after an accident and moving from the country to the city or vice versa.

And, with recent weather conditions very much in everyone's minds, driving in icy and snowy conditions is a challenge many people won't have tackled as learners, but a session with a driving instructor can teach techniques for avoiding skids that can make the experience much less hair-raising.

Instructor Mr Gerry Butler has helped many drivers improve or regain their skills. "Every course I teach is tailored to the individual," he says. "For example, if a confident driver has just passed their test and wants additional roundabout training then we will probably spend most of the session on roundabouts.

"But if a pupil is struggling with a fear of roundabouts then the approach will be more about gradual exposure - assessing their driving on quiet roads then moving to roundabouts, in a manner which expands their comfort zone.

"If a new student comes to me with confidence issues I'll normally begin by asking them to drive as they normally would for about 20 minutes and I'll observe without commenting. Then I get them to pull over and ask if they can identify anything about their driving that might be less than ideal and whether they have any questions for me. Then we'll maybe choose one aspect and work on that together."

Participants in the course L to R Sean Dowling, Noel Moran, Grace McGee (Co-ordinator) ,John Lane, Freda Prendergast, Geoff Prendergast, Gerry Butler driving instructor (0872580294 )

The length of refresher training can range from one session to a long series for especially nervous drivers. "Some students stay with me until they've reached the level they want," Mr Butler says, "while others take a few lessons to get the ball rolling then go on to practice by themselves."

For people wanting to improve their road skills, a sympathetic driving instructor is a good first port of call.

Local councils and police forces often offer inexpensive training, so it's worth investigating if this is available in your area. Many driving centres offer skid prevention and control courses - especially relevant given the extreme severity of recent British winters.

Noel Gibbons said "Some people take the course because they enjoy driving and want to make themselves even better, others because they've become rusty and want to improve their skills and confidence levels."

"We highly encourage all drivers to avoid complacency and make the effort to improve," "whether that's taking a course like this one, booking a motorway lesson or even just spending an evening reading through The rules of the road."

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