To coin a phrase from that game played by men with over inflated ego’s who are paid too much; today was a “game of two halves.”
This morning started in the office at HQ. I planned on a quick check of emails, all my social media channels and engagement overnight and then I was off to deliver some training about 20 miles away. As soon as I walked through the door one of the managers asked if I could draft a short article for the internal website about cyber security. I knocked something up very quickly, got my other bits done and then I was off on the road to my training location.
Later, with the training delivered, I headed off to a hotel for a different kind of event altogether. A speed awareness course!
Yes. Me. A police officer with nearly a quarter of a century of service, an ex traffic officer (7yrs), a class 1 advanced driver and a really strong advocate of road safety and promoter of the risks of the #Fatal4
I will leave a pause here whilst you all have a good laugh… Then I’ll move on.
… tick tock…..
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Am I A hypocrite? How can I advocate road safety and then do that which I am so strongly opposed to? How, when I have advised, chastised and prosecuted people for speeding can I go and do the same thing? The answer is simple. I’m a human being. I’m imperfect and I’m flawed… just like everyone else.
What did I do? On a dark Sunday evening at around 5pm a camera van pinged me at 35mph in a 30mph zone. I had just come from a 60mph zone and my speed was drifting down… but not quickly enough. I came around a corner and there was the van. I glanced down at the speedo… 35.
Game, set and match.
The inevitable process followed and given the option of the course.. I took it.
The offence is something I have found embarrassing. I should know better but, as above, I also know I’m not perfect. Nobody is, but it changed my behaviour instantly. I have been more aware of speed and adjusted my driving to suit.
In this scenario the biggest problem was me. If it were you, the biggest problem is you. As we learn a skill like driving we eventually reach a point where it comes naturally to us. How many times have you driven home and then not been able to recall the journey? This is essentially reaching a stage that is called unconscious competence. You have simply reached a stage where you can drive without really thinking about it.
What are you thinking about when you drive?
The road conditions, the speed limit, your speed, hazards from the road and layout, hazards from other motorists, hazards from pedestrians etc *
The things you have to do at work today, what is for dinner, when you need to pick the kids up, what you need to buy on the way home, the argument you had with your partner last night etc?*
* List is not exhaustive
Our attention span is short. If we are on a familiar route then it can be shorter. The thing that can change this is something different. Something out of the ordinary that we wouldn’t normally expect on that route. Otherwise, if we have reached unconscious competence, the journey could very well just pass us by. When we do this our speed and other factors of our driving can be affected.
I’m no longer qualified to drive advanced police cars. Those skills need regular refreshers and since transferring to my current force I have not used them because of the roles I’ve been assigned to. However, I do drive every day and the skills I have should be used daily too. So I went to the course today not really knowing to expect. I was pretty sure it would involve some element of advanced driving skills and discussions about the consequences of speed. It did.
I went with a view thinking the course would not cover anything I didn’t know. It didn’t. Yet it is always surprising how little we really know about the roads. When I joined traffic you had to complete what was called a TPO course (Traffic Patrol Officer). This taught many of the skills and key specialisms a traffic cop needs to know. One of the trainers came in one day and asked us to draw a street sign. For example, a “No Motor Vehicles” sign. The group of aspiring officers, the future enforcers of road traffic regulations mostly got the sign wrong. Wrong shape, wrong colour or wrong symbols. The trainer just grinned at us. We recognise the signs when we see them but can’t always recall them from memory. “Time to buck your ideas up” he said… and we did!
Today was almost a repeat of this. One of the signs the group were asked to draw was a stop sign. Everyone, save me, drew a round sign! Nobody, except me, knew what longer central road lines mean. Do you? When was the last time you looked at the Highway Code? Do you know what features of a road give you a good indication of determining the posted speed limit?
I went with a view that I was going to learn nothing new. This may sound a little arrogant but I didn’t. I had to bite my tongue a few times because I knew answers that someone else really needed to answer. The trainers were wanting to tease out the answers… and besides, nobody likes a know it all!
There was one point though where I opened up. We had been describing a picture and identifying hazards. The trainer then asked about what we would be thinking and doing if we were driving. I held back but the answers from the group were a bit thin and he clearly didn’t want to give the answers. I reeled off a whole pile of things and he was very pleased with all the answers. Someone in the group then chirped up.. “Blimey! Are you a traffic cop?” I just smiled.
The course finally wrapped up and everyone headed off home. I understand these courses are valuable and there is good evidence they are more effective in many cases than simply dishing out points and fines. Essentially the course is supposed to change attitude and behaviour and not just punish. It tackles the cause and not the symptoms. Those of you that know me will know this is something I bang on about a lot.
So was it a waste of my time? No. Not at all. It was interesting and good to refresh on things I’ve not considered for some time. Did I learn anything new? No. What I did learn however, from the moment I saw the camera van and was reinforced at the course today, was that I have become lazy and complacent. My professional skills have lapsed because of my roles but I have also allowed them to lapse personally. Not good enough. As I drove home I ran an advanced commentary for the full 15 mile journey. A great skill and one I would encourage you to try. You really start to identify many things that you would otherwise not notice at all.
My speed wasn’t excessive but I make no excuses for it. I should know better and I’ve learnt from the experience. A shot across the bows if you like. I have committed myself to get back into the practice of my advanced driving skills and will continue to do so. Am I embarrassed. Damn right I am… but I also know that I’m human and prone to making the same mistakes or errors of judgement as anybody else.
What did I have for lunch today? A healthy portion of humble pie.