On Thursday 12th January 2012 I was privileged to be invited to join the the Hertfordshire Constabulary Police Driving School. This school is unique in that it uses Civilian Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) as opposed to serving police driving instructors to train their police officers in Response Driving and Advanced Driving techniques.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has their own driving school which is situated at Police Headquarters in Welwyn Garden City.
The response course takes two weeks. The first day of the course involves two written examinations. One tests their knowledge of the Highway Code and the second is about ‘Road Craft’.
Roadraft is about driving to a nationally recognised standard system for response drivers of all the emergency services. It’s about reading the road, positioning your vehicle on the road and anticipating potential hazards by using the road layouts and furniture.
(It is also an excellent publication to read during training and following normal driver driving tests. I encourage my students to purchase and study it.)
Once these exams have been passed, the officers are taken out on local roads to start putting the theory into practical terms – always keeping to the speed limits. If the driving instructor is satisfied, they will then progress onto the national roads (‘A’ roads and motorways) where there is a legal exemption and officers can exceed the speed limit to get used to driving at higher speeds.
In the second week, they start driving using the lights and sirens and seeing how members of the public react. It’s about learning how to anticipate these reactions.
This is where I slotted in and was able to experience first hand how a Response Drive is conducted under instruction and to witness how the public react to a vehicle with flashing lights and sounding it’s siren approaching from behind or in front. This knowledge has greatly assisted me in adapting my teaching methods to my students on how to deal with such occasions when they arise. It is not about stopping to let the vehicle pass but to find a safe, convenient and legal place. The driver of the emergency vehicle will wait for a response before proceeding, if the way isn’t initially clear.
Don’t panic or endanger yourself when approached by an emergency vehicle showing flashing lights and sounding it’s siren. Check that rear view mirror regularly. It was surprising how long it took some drivers to react even though we had been following for some considerable distance.