MIKE WAITE served in the Dorset Police for 20 years as a police motorcycle instructor training police officers to the very highest level of high-speed pursuit riding. Now you can buy his expert training DVD on Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com.
Thank you for an excellent course. It was nothing short of a revelation, particularly the visual point and overtaking areas.C.M. from London
The question you should ask yourself is, “Do I look far enough ahead?” The answer should be “Yes”. If not, one would be walking into everyone on the street! When speed is introduced, our eyes will start looking ahead. As speed increases our eyes adjust automatically, as we decrease speed the shorter our view will be.
You must think about searching ahead, because if you do not your eyes will drop automatically. This is without doubt the main cause of accidents.
The Visual Point trains your eyes to look to the farthest point and it will give you vital information, enabling you to plan and react to features ahead. You might think that by looking far into the distance you would not see the vehicles in front of you slowing down and closing with you; take it from me, even when looking up you will be aware of all that is happening around you by your peripheral vision.
Anticipation is vital. It is difficult to hold on to for long periods of time and for some people even for a short time. This is where concentration comes into its own. Without it the ability to keep looking far ahead will be lost. You have to be actively searching ahead and thinking about doing it at the same time. If you do not, your eyes revert to automatic distance viewing.
The feeling of speed automatically affects the distance you look forward. Put yourself on or in a vehicle that is on a motorway with a three-lane carriageway. With this type of road we have open spaces to the left and the right of us. Travelling at 70mph you may be aware that it rarely feels that fast, possibly only 50mph. Now think about the automatic focusing of your eyes when travelling at any speed. In this situation your speed is 70mph but your vision will register only 50mph, the consequence being your sight line will be reduced considerably. The possibility of an accident occurring is increased substantially.
How many times have you seen a driver or rider slam his brakes on? This is because of the situation regarding his choice of the feeling of his speed and not his true speed. Now take the same speed on a narrow-gauge road with buildings or hedges either side. The speed will feel greater than 70mph and your response will be that you look farther ahead than you would on the motorway described above.
Any distraction will affect the automatic response where and how far your eyes will focus. There can be many distractions; someone speaking to you on a mobile phone, thinking about anything not associated to your driving (a major cause of accidents), getting upset at the antics of other drivers or even listening to the radio. As soon as this is introduced your eyes revert to automatic mode; an accident waiting to happen.
Many people and organisations blame speed for practically every accident. This is nonsense and will do nothing to reduce accidents, which are mainly down to lack of concentration, lack of anticipation and lack of roadcraft.
How many times have you travelled along a route and found that you are almost at your destination without being aware of part of the journey? We all know this happens and the reason is because we have lost our concentration. Holding on to it is one of the hardest disciplines, but it is essential. Lack of it is a major cause of accidents, not speed (unless it is accompanied by this lack of concentration and not using the visual point which considerably reduces your capacity to react). Education is required. When was the last time you saw or heard anything to inform the masses about the necessity for concentration, anticipation or the visual point? There will always be the dangerous element, reckless in speed and manner of riding and driving. No amount of cameras or police activity will address this problem. Some riders and drivers seek to improve their roadcraft by joining organisations such as the IAM or ROSPA and a few go to private trainers to receive instruction. They are to be congratulated for making the effort. There is no doubt that individuals who train should be rewarded by reduced insurance or grants to cover course costs. We do have to bear in mind the competence of the trainers conducting these courses. At the moment it is a hit-and-miss affair.
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