Older Drivers Can Be Safer Drivers, Says IAM – and Paddy Hopkirk Proves It

There’s always a degree of mockery and moaning in the mainstream media when it comes to older drivers. Egged on by cycling or public transport pundits, many politicians  seem to hate older drivers being on the road and call for more tests, or even realtives to snatch the keys away from their hands. It’s also a fact that your car insurance rises in price simply because you passed the age 70 milestone, or older. But is safe driving somehow inextricably linked to your age?

No, of course not, and just as UK employers have had to accept that older workers cannot be discriminated against simply because of their age, one day insurers and brokers will face the same legal challenge and fresh regulations to level the playing field. But that’s another editorial rant, for another day – here’s some good news from IAM;

Race and rally legend Paddy Hopkirk and his son Patrick achieved the highest civilian driving standard in the UK recently, when they both passed IAM RoadSmart’s Masters with Distinction qualification.

Paddy, 86, and Patrick, 47, were assessed on 8 May by Richard Gladman and Stuart Haythorn, who ensure that all driving standards are of the highest level for IAM RoadSmart.

Paddy needs no introduction in the world of motorsport. Although he is famous for winning the 1964 Monte Carlo and 1967 Acropolis Rallies, he also raced at the fearsome Le Mans 24 Hours as well as many other circuits around the world.

Paddy was also greatly admired for giving up a sure win in the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon to rescue a fellow competitor from his burning car.

For the past three years Paddy has worked as a volunteer for IAM RoadSmart as its Mature Driver Ambassador – travelling the UK talking about road safety and how older people can drive safely and with confidence on today’s roads.

Paddy and Patrick now join a select team of just 500 advanced drivers who have reached Masters standard with Distinction. There are around 1,000 Masters holders in total in the UK.

IAM RoadSmart Masters programme helps drivers take their talent to the next level. Building on the individual’s skills as an existing advanced road user, the Masters programme will help them enhance and develop their ability even further in the following areas:

  • Cornering principles
  • Assessing, planning and executing safe overtaking manoeuvres
  • Recognising opportunities to make safe progress, within the speed limits
  • Improving observation, anticipation and awareness consistent with vehicle speed
  • Applying sound judgement of speed and distance

Paddy has already taken IAM RoadSmart’s Advanced Driving Course twice (27 years apart) and the Mature Driver Review.

He said: “It doesn’t matter if you are a rally winner or a daily commuter, everyone can be a better driver. I really want to keep developing my driving skills because the roads are always changing – it is very important to be aware of what is around you, and to make sure that all road users are protected from the risk of injury as much as is possible.

“I enjoyed taking the Masters as did Patrick, and am delighted to have reached Distinction. It is proof that there is no age barrier to being better and safer behind the wheel.

“I especially learnt that the habitual use of mirrors is very important; it’s the best way of getting the information you need to be a better driver.”

Mike Quinton, Chief Executive Officer of IAM RoadSmart, said: “We are proud of Paddy who has worked tirelessly on our behalf. Taking the advanced test and the Masters is not for the elite; it is something everyone can try – and everyone will benefit from. It could even save a life one day.”

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