Derek’s driving

Derek Maynard | 01.12.2013

Derek Maynard talks about his work at the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

I passed my motorcycle test at 16, my driving test at 18, my advanced driving test at 25 in 1977 and a few years later became an ‘observer’ (like an instructor, but we don’t take payment for our advice), for my local Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) group.

I take trainees, or ‘associate’ members, out in their own cars, make comments and if necessary give advice on how to improve their driving, which involves a lot of talking. Luckily I have a fairly mild stammer and don’t need to talk about it, as I figure it is for me to know and for them to find out. None of the drivers ever ask me about how I talk or complain that they don’t understand what I’m saying when giving instructions on where to go at road junctions (if necessary I point to the exit saying, “Where that car is going”), or to remind them of the two-second safety rule (double if driving on a wet road). One thing that strikes fear into associates is when they’re asked to do a running commentary whilst driving (when I took the test I did okay at this, but as it’s optional I couldn’t fail because of it so it didn’t bother me too much). Some people are very good from the start, but for some I need to give them a few pointers on what to say and hope they take over. I sometimes think, ‘I am the one with the stammer and I am doing better than you are!’  

If anyone suspects that I have a stammer they must wonder how I’m able to observe their driving and speak in a clear voice. Group observers are tested by police officers when applying for our Senior Observer Test, which I passed several times to keep up the standard. I am on the IAM committee, to which I have to give reports and I attend regional and national meetings. I’ve lost count of the number of people I have helped pass their advanced driving tests. The first associate I observed went in a different direction to what I asked and later explained that she didn’t know her left from her right!

One or two colleagues may have made a joke about my stammering in the past but I’m good at answering back, so it wasn’t a problem. Our union rep is very good when it comes to sorting out problems and now the office has a bullying helpline. Overall, as a person who stammers I feel I have respect from my colleagues; they come to me asking questions about the law if they have a near accident. We’re good at looking after each other.

From Speaking Out Winter 2013, p.11