Sunday, October 25, 2009

Driving mantra Part 9 - S.I.P.D.E

This part could easily have been the first or the last entry in this series of driving mantra. I chose to put it at the end because it encompasses everything I've talked about over the last few weeks and it's a simple technique that you should learn and use to the point where it becomes habit. If you've ridden a motorcycle for any length of time, you will be practicing S.I.P.D.E without even knowing it. You have to - it's the only way to stay safe on a motorbike. But for car drivers this is often a difficult concept to grasp, coccooned inside their mobile entertainment complexes. If you've ever seen a police driver training video where you can hear one of the officers constantly narrating what is going on, that's S.I.P.D.E. It would sound a little like this:
"Approaching a road on the left - no traffic. Bus stop to the right - old lady there - could be deaf or blind - might walk into traffic. Car in front slowing down. Car behind getting a bit too close. Bicycle on the pavement - has he seen us. Old lady has sat down - probably OK. Car now approaching junction in front of us - driver looking the other way. Bus coming towards us having to go wide to get around cyclist." etc etc etc. It's a constant, real-time observation of everything going on around the police car. So what is S.I.P.D.E? Search, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute.
Search for problems before they happen. Is that person approaching from the side road a little too fast? Have they seen you? Identify the hazards around you. Someone texting on their cellphone? Someone distracted by kids in the back seat? Predict - try to predict what the traffic around you is going to do. Can you see a lane closed ahead? Chances are the cars in front of you are going to try to merge and if they do, will they be paying attention? Decide what to do - can you slow down and make room? Can you avoid the problem by changing lanes? Execute your decision - just do it. If this all sounds complicated and exhausting then you're right - it is. Driving a car should never be considered a luxury, or a right, or something that is easy. It's a complex interaction between you, the 2 ton weapon you're driving, the road and the other road users. If you can get into the habit of this sort of prediction-avoidance loop, you will be able to drive far more smoothly than you would simply by reacting to events only when they happen. And when you drive smoothly, as I said in Part 1 - the river flows a lot more easily.

That concludes my mini series on driving mantra. Hopefully you got something useful out of it and hopefully it will give you pause for thought next time you step behind the wheel.

1 comment:

Teghead said...

I've only read part 9 of this mantra (going backwards through your posts) but I use this everyday I drive my car. Seeing so many drivers react to the road hazards instead of predicting them shows how the cars are so advanced these days but the driver skill is still far behind. I'm sure if given a replay of each "accident" that occurred on the roads, one could point out several signs showing what lead to it.