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Institute of Advanced Motorists

IAM car drivers badge

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is a charity based in the United Kingdom and serving nine countries, whose objective is to improve car driving and motorcycle riding standards, and so enhance road safety, by using the British police's system of car and motorcycle control commonly known as "the System". The System was devised in 1937 by racing driver the 6th Earl of Cottenham to reduce accidents in police pursuits.[1]

People who have passed an IAM test have substantially fewer accidents[2] and typically report getting more pleasure from driving too. Research has shown that IAM training increases a wide range of driving skills,[3] including speed, safe distances, gear changing and cornering.

The IAM was formed in 1956 and has more than 100,000 members, all of whom have taken and passed an advanced test in a car, commercial vehicle or on a motorcycle.


The organisation was formed in March 1956.[4]

In 2006, two new assessments were introduced: DriveCheck and RideCheck. These checks provide the opportunity to have your driving or riding ability assessed by an IAM observer. DriveCheck and RideCheck are not, however, a test. There is no pass or fail. The IAM later added DriveCheck55, which offers the opportunity for people over the age of 55 to have driving checked and receive tips from a police Class 1 driver.

At the end of 2006 the organisation formed the IAM Motoring Trust and took over the work of the AA Motoring Trust which had been formed by The Automobile Association in 2002.[5]

In 2010, the IAM published "How to be a better cyclist" (the third in the IAM Series, the others being "How to be a better driver" and "How to be a better rider"). The IAM now offers a special Cycling membership that includes insurance cover.

Market research suggested the title Institute did not appeal to younger drivers, so the initials "IAM" have been used increasingly. In 2011, reducing the queue for the advanced test itself has become a priority.

The IAM also has a commercial subsidiary that provides occupational driver risk management products and services to the UK business community who have a duty of care to employers to ensure they are competent and safe. This business is IAM Drive & Survive.


The Institute of Advanced Motorists Limited was incorporated on 10 March 1956 as a company limited by guarantee.[6] A separate "Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists" was registered in 2006, although it rarely or never features in IAM publications.[7] IAM is privately owned, holding no shares. It is registered as a charitable organisation in Scotland, England and Wales. Its official purpose is to improve the standard of driving and the promotion of road traffic safety for the public benefit, in particular by (but not limited to), the operation of an advanced driving test.[8]

The institute is organised on two levels: there is a head office on Chiswick High Road, London; and more than 217 local groups in the UK.[9] Other groups are in Australia, Bermuda, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Kenya, New Zealand, Portugal and Turkey.[10] Local groups are largely independent, setting their own fees, meeting times and places. Some groups cater for all vehicles, while others may be car or motorcycle-only.

Nigel Mansell, a former World Champion in Formula One, became President in 2006.[11] The Chief Executive is Simon Best.


To become a member, one needs to pass the advanced test. There are exemptions for people with suitable emergency services or military driving qualifications. Trainees are called associates, and instructors observers.

Membership fees are paid to both head office and the local group. As of 2011, full membership is renewable annually at £32 to head office, and many local groups charge around £20 yearly. Associates pay £139 once to the Head Office to join, which includes the first attempt at the advanced test.

Despite the name Advanced, only a few months' experience (one year in Northern Ireland, because of speed restrictions on newly qualified drivers) are necessary to become an associate. Many people report the value in joining the IAM early in their driving careers, because it helped them to avoid typical new driver accidents.

There are four levels of IAM membership, representing increasing skill levels. IAM entry level is considered a foundation in advanced motoring, which is easily achievable by most people. It requires only a rudimentary grasp of the police system of driving. At a higher skill level, a F1RST is awarded to those who pass their advanced test and achieve a score of 1 in virtually every category.[12] An IAM F1RST is considered to be at least as high as standard as a RoSPA Gold.[13] Moving up to a much higher skill level are Masters and Masters with distinction (described below).[14] The latter is now recognised as the highest civilian driving qualification in the UK.


The IAM's objective is to increase road safety by improving driving standards. Many people find their increased skills bring more enjoyment to driving.

Advanced driving test

Main article: Advanced driving test

The IAM offers the advanced driving test. It is run independently, and does not affect the driving licence from the country where the associate lives. The test is significantly more difficult than the standard driving test, but is within the reach of most drivers with the right guidance. The techniques are based on the UK police driving manual.[15]

Reasons for attempting the test include improving skills, safety or simply for fun. Motor insurers normally award a small discount on premiums (typically 10%), but a greater insurance discount is usually found with the IAM's associated insurance company (IAM Surety). It may also appeal because the associate can improve their skill as an individual, avoiding bland assumptions of risk based on statistics.

It is marketed under the name Skills for Life to emphasise the purpose of preventing fatalities and enhanced skills.

Research has shown advanced drivers to be safer and have better fuel efficiency too. For example, a study by Brunel University found advanced drivers who had been through the IAM system of car control were nearly 70% better in all aspects of their driving – from steering to judging distances and speed.[16] Earlier research by the Transport Research Laboratory that concluded drivers are less likely to crash if they have reached a measurable higher driving standard.[2] Unpublished research by IAM Surety showed that insurance claims by IAM members were far cheaper than comparable non-IAM members, because IAM members generally didn't have big accidents. In short, IAM members are safer drivers.[2]

400,000 people have attempted the advanced test, and the pass rate is around 75%.[17]


Before attempting the test, associates complete a training programme with volunteers called "observers" provided by the local group, and arranged at mutually convenient times. IAM suggest six lessons may be enough to pass,[9] but time taken varies and there is no maximum. Associates use a textbook called How to be a Better Driver, which is a simplified version of the police driving manual Roadcraft. How to be a Better Driver has been criticised by some for being over simplified.

Observers are not paid for their time, although motorcycle associates may reimburse their observers for fuel. (In motorcycling, the associate and observer ride their own bikes.) Observers are trained internally, but accredited though an external body.[18] Variable quality of observers was a criticism of the IAM, which it started to address in 2013-14 by strengthening observer training and using IMI to externally accredit observers. Some observers are professional instructors or hold the RoSPA Diploma in Advanced Instruction. There are some more senior instructors, called National Observers, in each group.[19]

As with any road situation, legality and paperwork (including licence, insurance, and vehicle inspection) is the driver's responsibility. In particular, motorcycle observers are advised to check they are insured for that purpose, since they ride their own bike.

Test procedure

The test is nothing like an L-test. There's less pressure, because pass or fail makes no difference to a driving licence. Rather, the IAM 'test' provides a rare opportunity to gain an assessment, guidance and tips from by a police pursuit driver. This suits enthusiastic drivers or simply those curious about how to further enhance their skills. In short, it's a far more enjoyable and valuable learning experience than the L-test. Many people report that their advanced test was the best part of the programme, because of the high quality of expertise and tips passed on by the police Class One examiner. Due to the police operational background of IAM examiners, candidates can expect them to be practical and pragmatic, not to mention an often infectious enthusiasm for driving.

The 'test' lasts for approximately 90 minutes and covers about Script error: No such module "convert". and including urban and rural areas; and motorways and/or dual carriageways (as available), to test the candidate in a wide range of conditions, each with different hazards. The examiner is a serving or retired police officer who holds a Police Advanced Driving Certificate (or holds the Police Driving Instructor Certificate from the UK Home Office).

Tests are marked simply as a fail, pass or F1RST.[12] The test can be retaken as often as desired. It is not unusual for those who have passed to retake the test to aim for a F1RST. Once the test is passed, the candidate is an advanced driver for life - unlike RoSPA Advanced Drivers and Riders (RoADAR), which requires a 3-yearly re-test.[20] He or she is not subject to re-testing by IAM, even if their licence is suspended by the government, but relevant motoring convictions must be disclosed on annual renewal of membership.

Other services

In 2014, the IAM introduced Masters as an even higher standard of driving.[14] Masters is a big step up from IAM entry level. The IAM Masters programme provides true "one to one" mentoring support and guidance, in order to help people achieve the highest level of civilian driving standard in the country. Prior to the introduction of the IAM Masters programme, RoSPA Gold[20] and the DIAmond Special Test[21] were considered the highest civilian driving qualification in the UK. However, IAM Masters is now widely recognised as the highest civilian qualification in the UK. There are two grade of Masters: pass and distinction.

Building on the basics of advanced driving, the Masters programme enhances the following driving skills:

  • Cornering
  • Overtaking
  • Recognizing 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
  • Delivering a fluent, relevant and continuous commentary

The advanced test is offered in variants: as an accelerated programme (within three days) called FastTrack,[22] membership and the test only (no training), taster sessions, and assessments for drivers over 55.

Motor insurance offered through IAM Surety, which expressly covers observing for IAM. Typically, the insurance discounts from IAM Surety exceed those offered to advanced drivers by other insurers.[23]

IAM Motoring Trust

The IAM Motoring Trust, incorporating the AA Motoring Trust, is the policy and research division road safety of the IAM.[24] It was formed in 2006 to carry out road safety research and advocates for safer roads, drivers and vehicles when the IAM assumed responsibility for the work of the AA Motoring Trust.

The AA Motoring Trust was formed in 2002 after the demutualisation of the The Automobile Association in 1999. The Trust was to carry out the organisation's public interest motoring and road safety work.[25]

The activities of the AA Motoring Trust were then transferred to the newly formed IAM Motoring Trust on 31 December 2006.[5]

The stated objectives of the organisation are concerned with the undertaking of road safety research, the promotion of practical evidence-based policies to improve road safety, the advocacy of safer roads, drivers and vehicles, and the encouragement of responsible motoring.[26]

Campaign for Safe Road Design

In July 2008, the IAM Motoring Trust became a partner in the Campaign for Safe Road Design which is calling on the UK government to make safe road design a national transport priority.[27]

See also


  1. "History of Roadcraft". Worcestershire Group of Advanced Motorists. 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hoinville, G.; Berthoud, R.; Mackie, A. M. (1 January 1972). "A study of accident rates amongst motorists who passed or failed on Advanced Driving Test". Transport Research Laboratory. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  3. "Drivers with extra tuition are safer". Brunel University London. 6 September 2006. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  4. Hutton, Ray, ed. (19 March 1977). "IAM 21". Autocar: 49–50. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "The IAM Motoring Trust". Roads & Road Transport History Association. Retrieved 29 April 2010. The IAM Motoring Trust is a new, independent road safety organisation, which forms the research and advocacy arm of the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) The Trust is taking forward the work of the AA Motoring Trust, which ceased to operate on 31 December 2006. 
  6. "Failure Page". Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  7. "Failure Page". Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  8. "Memorandum of Association of the Institute of Advanced Motorists Limited" (PDF). The Institute of Advanced Motorists. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "IAM Groups Directory". The Institute of Advanced Motorists. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  10. "International Groups". The Institute of Advanced Motorists. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  11. "President - Nigel Mansell CBE". The Institute of Advanced Motorists. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "F1RST". The Institute of Advanced Motorists. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  13. "IAM Masters v RoSPA". The Advanced Driving UK Forum. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Masters". The Institute of Advanced Motorists. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  15. "Roadcraft". The Police Foundation. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  16. Stanton, N. A.; Walker, G. H.; Young, M. S.; Kazi, T. & Salmon, P. M. (2007). "Changing drivers' minds: The evaluation of an advanced driver coaching system". Ergonomics (The Ergonomics Society) 50 (8): 1209–1234. doi:10.1080/00140130701322592. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  17. "Skill for Life". The Institute of Advanced Motorists. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  18. "IMI Procedural guidance". The Institute of Advanced Motorists. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  19. "IMI National Observer qualification documents". The Institute of Advanced Motorists. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Advanced Driving Test". RoADAR. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  21. "DIAmond Special Test". Driving Instructors Association. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  22. "Fast Track". The Institute of Advanced Motorists. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  23. "IAM Surety Insurance". Cornmarket Insurance Services. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  24. "Policy & Research". IAM. Retrieved 22 January 2012. The definitive reference guide to life on the UK’s roads has been published by the IAM’s Policy and Research Division, the IAM Motoring Trust. [dead link]
  25. "IAM and AA Motoring Trust combine to form new road safety organisation". RoadSafe. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  26. "IAM Motoring Trust". The Institute of Advanced Motorists. 
  27. "Safe road design to save UK £6bn every year" (DOC). Campaign for Safe Road Design. Retrieved 1 October 2008. [dead link]

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