Last week was interesting. I’ve had an incredible view that most people don’t get not inly into police work in general, but also into the method of driving that the police use.

Since the 1930’s the police of the UK have been using a system of car driving invented by a racing driver who was consulted by the Metropolitan Police to try and reduce the horrendous number of RTAs that they were experiencing.  Sir Mark Everard Pepys, sixth Earl of Cottenham, along with input from SCH Davis and Sir Malcolm Campbell created the system of driving as a methodical  system designed to allow drivers to identify hazards and react to them. Initially each student copied the notes out by hand, but in 1954 they were compiled together into a published document and a year later Roadcraft was published by HMSO. So the system isn’t anything particularly new – though it has changed a little over the years, I’m sure those first students would still recognise it now.

So you can just go out and read the book and become a better driver right? Wrong. The book definitely gives you food for thought and makes you think a little bit more about your driving and your perception of what goes on around you. But it’s no substitute for a well taught course of instruction – and that’s what we had this week courtesy of South Wales Police. In addition to the basic theory, you get a practical view of it from experienced drivers – our instructor had spent 6 years as a traffic officer and another 5 years as a driving instructor for the driving school. Of course, she’d made her mistakes over the years and so that’s also a great benefit. Finally, there’s nothing like being taken out by an experienced instructor and being shown how to use the system and other techniques and more importantly having someone experienced correcting you.

So I’m now happy that this has given me enough skills and basic knowledge to respond safely on blue lights. Where do we go from here – and a question I’ve already been asked is how do people not so fortunate get here?

Two organisations that I’m aware of can help you – IAM and RoADA both of whom offer advanced driver training specifically in the use of the system. From the instructors at the driving school, they’re apparently pretty similar, but one of the interesting comments was that the depth into which they will take the system in their instruction is nowhere near that which the instructors achieve in the police driving school, even on a one-week course. That’s not to say they’re no good – they are excellent and most will have police drivers as members who can instruct you.

I for one believe that the standard tests for young people should be extended. They should be taught to the level of a basic police driver, the same requirement as that which you need to join IAM or RoADA. They should have time on a skid pan to find out how easy it is to lose control. They should be shown what ABS does, what traction control does. They should learn how to read hazards, how attitude affects your driving. I have no doubt that it would reduce the number of accidents on the road and with that reduce deaths and insurance premiums. I’ve already told Sean to ask around for instructors who can teach him the system of car control as part of his driving lessons – he’s seen the difference in my driving and is just as enthused about it as I am.

So that’s my driving course. I’m hoping to join IAM to try and get past their test – it will certainly help with my insurance premiums. I’m happy that I’m a safer driver, but it’s not going to let me get complacent. This is a skill that you need to practice and I’m sure over the coming months, I’ll slip into some bad habits again. I think having seen the course, the drivers and the results, I can honestly say if you’re not using the system, you’re not as safe a driver as you could be.

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