A GROUP which aims to promote safer driving across North Wales has steered itself to a top award from a police boss.
The North Group of Advanced Motorists was set up by motoring enthusiasts back in 1977 to help drivers to prepare for the tough Institute of Advanced Motorists’ driving programme.
Serving all six counties of North Wales, its members currently guide between 20 and 30 drivers a year towards the advanced driving test and the group has notched up an impressive pass rate of 95 per cent.
It is this commitment to helping to keep danger off the roads that has landed the group the coveted Safer Community Award (Road Safety) in the second annual awards run by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick.
Mr Roddick launched the awards last year as a way to honour unsung crime fighting heroes across all North Wales communities in what was the first initiative of its kind in England and Wales.
The aim of the awards scheme is to officially recognise people who help police to keep their neighbourhood or town a peaceful and safe place to live and work and who help in rehabilitating offenders.
The award recognises an individual, community group or organisation that has made a significant contribution towards enhancing community safety on the roads.
It was handed over to the advanced motorists by Mr Roddick at the 2015 awards ceremony at the Kinmel Manor Hotel in Abergele.
North Wales Group of Advanced Motorists consists of a dedicated band of eight committee members who handle overall administration plus 15 observers who sit alongside drivers and expertly guide them through the Skill for Life course to the point where they are ready to take the advanced test.
The course is based closely on the advanced manual which has been the text book for police drivers for many years and provides instruction on how to deal with potential hazards and also covers observation, awareness, positioning, smoothness of technique and road law.
The group’s committee chair, 52-year-old Mike Redfern-Jones from Denbigh, who has been part of the organisation since 1985, said: “The course is basically all about being able to deal effectively with anything unexpected which happens while you are driving and also giving yourself some time to cope with it.
“Once people who go on the course are judged to have reached the required standard they are put in for the test, which is carried out by examiners who are either serving or former police officers.
“Hopefully, having passed the test, which lasts for 90 minutes, people will have a better and safer understanding of the road.
“In some cases having the qualification can also lead to a reduction in car insurance premiums.
“Our group, which is one of 200 similar groups across the UK, has a high pass rate of 95 per cent, which we are proud of.
“We have always had a close working relationship with the police in North Wales and a few years ago took part in a pilot scheme in which young drivers prone to minor collisions were able to take our course, which normally costs £149.
“We have volunteers based across all six counties of North Wales and the thing they have in common is a love of driving and cars, which is what motivated me to join the group 30 years ago.
“The people we get on the course range in age from 17 to 80 and come to us for a variety of reasons – either because they love driving, have had a road accident themselves and want to avoid the same sort of thing in the future, or are company car drivers who have been referred to us by their employer.”
Mike, whose own day job is as an electrician, added: “It’s very nice to have won the award from the PCC and to have our work showcased in this high-profile way.
“The group is very proud and honoured by it as we don’t usually get much publicity for what we do and people find out about us by word of mouth.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick, who in his time has served as a police officer, a barrister and a judge, said: “One thing all our winners have in common is that they make North Wales a better and safer place to live and work.
“There are a great number of people who do a lot of good in the community by helping North Wales Police and these silent workers go way beyond anybody else to make a contribution and ensure their communities are safe.
“In the overwhelming number of cases, this a personal commitment made without expectation of any kind of reward or recognition.
“I created the awards so that these unsung heroes and heroines of communities across North Wales could receive the recognition they deserve and to encourage others to emulate their good example.”