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.
HAVING seen an advertisement for your Police Advanced Riding Techniques video in a popular national riders’ journal, I promptly sought more details from your website before telephoning to order a copy, so I hope you will not mind if I offer my first impressions—though I know from experience that by no means all genuine experts welcome criticism of any kind, even when it is directed at individuals or firms who have been assisting with production—or perhaps I should say especially when so directed. It is painful to criticize willing friends . . .Anyway, secondly the praise and congratulations that are due to all concerned. The benchmarks that I use for comparison are in no particular order of excellence, because your video ranks with the very best I have so far encountered: that made by then Police Traffic Sergeant and Institute of Advanced Motorists examiner on motorbikes, cars, and HGVs Rennie Ritchie, shown at the 1990 IAM Motorcycle Rally in Lancaster, with the disclaimer that it was not intended as an instructional film with the Institute’s blessing, but “could be used in any way to further motorcycling”, which had no title, and it is or was available free from him on receipt of a stamped, addressed envelope with a blank video cassette; Top Rider, the Skills of Superbiking, by Kerry Dunlop for the British Motorcyclists’ Federation and the IAM in 1994; and, but on cars, not bikes, the video Roadcraft, an Advanced Driving Course, based upon Police training at Hendon, for both the IAM and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, at a high level of skills but naturally not to pursuit standard; Shire Training Services High Performance Motorcycle Riding Skills video; and the Focus Lifestyle PC CD-Rom car-based Driving Test Theory Success (including the new Hazard Perception CD-Rom), a close copy of the official material. What all of those videos (and the unofficial but very good indeed Hazard Perception CD-Rom for learner drivers), and now including your own superb video, have in common is not ensuring that what can be seen by the rider/driver in the far distance, and expertly commented upon in the ‘film’, also is clearly visible to the video/CD-Rom viewer; this being apparent to me in the first instance when the IAM’s Advanced Driving journal featured a few scenes from the DSA’s own Hazard Perception set-up for use in L-testing stations, one example being of a child running into the road who could not be detected in the picture—and it is the same with my CD-Rom. As for your video, although I have described it as one of the best I have seen, and wished it had gone on for a whole lot longer than its published length, so as to be far more comprehensive—as I would expect from the Roadcraft people, had they the good sense to make a motorcycle video as good as the one for aspiring advanced car drivers—I suggest you could have made clearer the dangers of unexpected dips in the roadway, making nonsense of the Police mantra of “being able to stop within the distance one can see to be clear”, needing to be amended to what one knows to be clear. Also, although I would be happy to ride as pillion with you or your filmed companion, I am afraid that some of the road safety ignoramuses who call for “slower” speed limits—and don’t forget that very often largely ill-informed Authority tends to take their inexpert ‘nannying’ approach quite seriously—would be having kittens with fright if put in a position to see close-up your surgical overtaking skills!A.D.
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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