Lewis Carroll’s parody on the Caucus race has been lost on the Institute of Advanced Motorists.`What is a Caucus-race?' said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought somebody ought to speak. `Why,' said the Dodo, `the best way to explain it is to do it.' First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (`the exact shape doesn't matter,') and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no `One, two, three, and away,' but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, the Dodo suddenly called out `The race is over!' and they all crowded round, panting, and asking, `But who has won?' This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead, while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, `Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.'
I benefitted, as a teenager, from IAM monitoring. But rather like egalitarian schools that run sports days with no losers, the IAM is missing the point. Today it launched Momentum: “…for 17-25 year olds who have passed their driving test, incorporating two modules: an interactive online assessment, followed by an on-road session with an IAM examiner. Momentum does not involve an exam and there is no risk of failure.”
This is the world of Alice, where everybody wins and all must have prizes. Seventeen to twenty-fives might actually like a distinction, a badge showing they’ve achieved something. Advanced drivers have a certain cachet. I liked to think I was more “advanced” than others. It is a shame there is no official encouragement for “advancing” beyond the driving test. It’s cultural I suppose – avoids elitism. But this age group suffers more than its share of deaths and injuries and its driving improves, or sometimes doesn’t, largely through trial and error. Post-test guidance can reduce fatalities by a third and it’s time standards were raised. Hand out stars for better driving.
Driving skill. RAC Golden Fifty Rally, 1982, driving Victor Gauntlett's Aston Martin with radio reporter Greg Strange
Momentum courses cost £40, which will be taken off an IAM Skill for Life programme bought within a year. Skill for Life developed from Momentum helps predict hazards, anticipate others’ behaviour and assess roads and traffic. Buying Momentum between now and the end of April might win a place on an IAM young driver experience day at a UK track. More information on www.iam.org.uk/momentum
An American Alice. Detroit Motor Show 2011