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 Roadcraft
 Roadcraft, an introduction
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Nigel A
Male Junior Member
68 Posts


TAUNTON, Somerset
United Kingdom

(None)

Formerly BMW 80RT

Posted - 05/24/2009 :  2:12 AM                       Like       
Looking at the forum there seems to be a lot of concern about safety, naturally enough, but little unified way of going about it.

I don't know how many know this but over here in the UK we have a well-proven systematic approach which goes under the banner of Roadcraft.

The safety record associated with the Roadcraft system is extremely high. It came from the impressive record at police driving schools and therefore in police forces throughout the UK. As such, the essence of all they knew and understood was put into a government publication called Roadcraft, in 1955, and it has gone on from there.

I wonder how many people on the forum have heard of Roadcraft or, if they have, have put its precepts into action? And how they have found it works in the States?

gymnast
Moderator
4267 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, Idaho
USA

Harley-Davidson

Sportster Sport

Posted - 05/24/2009 :  3:19 PM
Nigel, welcome to the website. There have been several mentions of the "Roadcraft" system including several in recent days. Using the search feature on the upper right of the page, you should be able to find several mentions and discussions. It sounds like a great system, and you can be sure that the readers of this website would like to learn more about it; and the experiences and insights of those who have participated in the program as a rider or instructor are most welcome on this forum.

One of the problems we have in motorcycle rider training in the USA is resistance by some (either by de facto or de jure) to the idea that any programs that do not follow the "rather narrow model" of the programs of the motorcycle-industry-dominated MSF are to be resisted. Some feel that any motorcycle instruction that cannot be completed in a one-week basic course is too "sophisticated", costly or inconvenient.

One state (Oregon)that offered alternatives to the MSF program was sued in an attempt to bring it into lockstep with the other states offering MSF instruction as virtually the only pathway to basic rider training.
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Nigel A
Male Junior Member
68 Posts


TAUNTON, Somerset
United Kingdom

(None)

Formerly BMW 80RT

Posted - 05/24/2009 :  5:01 PM
Thanks, gymnast, for the welcome. I read your comments about MSF and have looked on their website. A lot of the items on the schedule are obviously sound, but also, as you commented, aimed at basic training.

It also seems as though most of their work is done in what we would call "off-road conditions." That is not meant to infer anything but "away from what you would call the highway." Indeed, much of our elementary rider training is done in similar conditions, but pupils also do a lot of their training in road conditions with an instructor in attendance. Nowadays, almost all use one-way radio links, and one instructor might take up to thee pupils on the road at one time.

Just going through the MSF review questions, they recommend a twelve second following distance! Did I really read that right? We have a problem over here getting people to follow the minimum Highway Code requirement of two seconds, let alone the three to four seconds used by police driving (cum riding) schools. That's for a following position, not a hold-back prior to overtaking, which is quite different. However, the MSF are recommending considering the consequences of actions and having time and space; both those (or all three, actually) are very important for safety.

They also recommend looking as far ahead as you can see, and then mention the two-second minimum following distance! Actually I think that twelve seconds was a misprint (but an important one); it should obviously be two seconds.

I also had a quick look at one of their Motorcycle Challenge questions on 'Maneuvering the curve,' but I have to say I wasn't much impressed with that for anything over and above a basic level.

However, reading your comments on MSF I see where you are coming from.

As I see it, what we are talking about is something different. It is developing rider skills and improving the safety factor after the basic training is completed, and after the rider has his license to ride on the roads, which is normally a very basic level of competence.

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gymnast
Moderator
4267 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, Idaho
USA

Harley-Davidson

Sportster Sport

Posted - 05/24/2009 :  5:59 PM
Actually, the MSF recommends a minimum 2-second following distance. I think the "12 seconds" refers to looking far ahead to a central visual reference point in the intended path of travel.

The original MSF instructional materials of approximately 35 years ago were, in many ways, better in my opinion, as applied to the teaching of the perceptual aspects of the motorcycle guidance task. Changes to simplify the teaching of the materials have, again in my opinion, "dumbed down" parts of the curriculum. SIPDE has been replaced by "simpler stuff."

In any case, the "12-second following distance" is either a typographical error in the materials you were looking at, or a misinterpretation in a secondary source.

In the early days of motorcycle safety training, there were persons within the MSF who did advocate some form of on-street training as part of the basic course; and some development work was carried out by Dr. Alan Robinson and others. One of the problems that cropped up was that of instructor and program liability, in the event that a student under the supervision of an instructor was involved in a crash during training.

The US tends to be a far more litigious society than the UK, Europe, and many other countries. If riders are licensed, insured, and riding their own motorcycles, the equation changes.

The original MSF concepts for on street rider training envisioned them taking place at the latter stages of the basic training course, with a student-to-instructor ratio of 6 to 1 and with radio communication between the students and the instructor.

Having participated in some of the early trials of this concept, my general opinion was that, considering the level of riding ability of the novice student who had only a "learner's permit" and only a couple of hours actual riding time on an off-street range facility, considering the fact that many of the students were minors, and looking at a host of other considerations at the time, I was very much opposed to the proposed concept, based on the risk to the students and possible exposure to liability for students injuries under on street conditions that could not be adequately controlled.
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Nigel A
Male Junior Member
68 Posts


TAUNTON, Somerset
United Kingdom

(None)

Formerly BMW 80RT

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  12:30 AM
Thanks, gymnast, for that helpful explanation. It seems, therefore, that there is no (or almost no) what we would call advanced rider training going on in an organized way in the States. Some of this might be due to, as you mentioned, the litigious nature of the country.

The insurance aspect of motorcycle tutors [as they are called in RoSPA Advanced Drivers and Riders (RoADAR), observers in the IAM (The Institute of Advanced Motorists)]has been well gone into over here, and therefore the 'instructor' is covered in the event of a crash. Also the associates (those on the courses) generally sign a disclaimer where it is also made clear that, regardless of what the instructor/tutor/observer says, it is ultimately the responsibilty of the rider taking the course to decide what is safe to do.

What is also interesting is that in the EU (European Union) the strong trend is to do any development training (better riding skills, et al) in off-road conditions -- which really can't achieve anything much. You need to be 'in the conditions' to have the real hands-on experience, and then have the tutor say, 'Well, in those (traffic) conditions you did this, but actually if you had done it that way you would have been less vulnerable to a crash', type thing... It is the only real way to do it.

In fact, the vulnerability factor is really what it is all about. So many times people define themselves as safe because they haven't had a crash, but what I am more interested in is how vulnerable they are to a crash.

Having said that, and bringing it down to basics, there are (apart from the single vehicle/bike crash which is generally the result of too much speed, often in a curve) only two ways it can happen. Either you hit them, or they hit you. Most of our work in reducing vulnerability is avoiding getting into the 'they hit you' scenario. If a rider's vulnerability factor is high, they are part of the problem. If it is low, then they are part of the solution.

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DDfromMN
Male Standard Member
196 Posts


St. Paul, Minnesota
USA

Yamaha

FJR 1300, Hon GL1200

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  10:51 AM
I don't believe the MSF actually reccomends a 2-second following distance. It is discussed, as well as a 4-second following distance, which is presented as being better.

The twelve seconds you refer to is not a following distance, but rather it is presented as an "anticipated path," another way of referring to scanning ahead.
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6890 Posts
[Mentor]


Pleasanton, CA
USA

KTM

990 Adv, XR650L

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  2:27 PM
quote:
Originally posted by DDfromMN

I don't believe the MSF actually recommends a 2-second following distance. It is discussed, as well as a 4-second following distance, which is presented as being better.

I've heard quite a few people lately suggesting a three or four second following distance, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA) has been recommending for years that two seconds is the safe following distance that allows you enough time to react to someone hitting the brakes ahead of you and to get stopped yourself. Obviously it's not enough distance if you're traveling at high speed and the car in front of you hits a brick wall and you don't notice until the impact occurs, but it's enough following distance for them to make an emergency stop and for you to notice and be able to stop without hitting them. The two second distance applies at all times, including when starting out from a stop light or stop sign.

Certainly three or four or ten seconds of following distance would be "safer", but two seconds is good enough. And in heavy freeway traffic it's hard enough to get even two seconds without having someone else fill the gap.

For those insisting on a following distance greater than two seconds, I would appreciate seeing a reference to where that number came from.

Here's one to start with based on a quick Google search: http://www.pointreducer.com/safety-tips.htm
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Axiom2000
Male Moderator
1761 Posts
[Mentor]


Georgetown, Delaware
USA

BMW

F 800 GT

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  3:17 PM
The MSF distances are:

2 seconds, the minimum safe following distance. Minimum is defined as under ideal weather, traffic and road conditions.

4 Seconds, the Immediate path. The rider must be ready to react immediately to anything occurring within this time

12 Seconds, the Anticipated. Or the distance to search ahead for factors that could develop into problems.
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Nigel A
Male Junior Member
68 Posts


TAUNTON, Somerset
United Kingdom

(None)

Formerly BMW 80RT

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  3:17 PM
DDfromFN, many thanks for that. It wasn't clear from looking at their website that the 12 seconds was for forward observation. Delighted to read that they recommend 4 seconds for a following distance. It gives gives someone plenty of time to slow down and stop. But do you feel that this sort of advice is generally applied by the general motorcyclist?
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Nigel A
Male Junior Member
68 Posts


TAUNTON, Somerset
United Kingdom

(None)

Formerly BMW 80RT

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  3:18 PM
Thanks also to RiderCoach. Very helpful.
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Nigel A
Male Junior Member
68 Posts


TAUNTON, Somerset
United Kingdom

(None)

Formerly BMW 80RT

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  3:38 PM
That's interesting, Scott. Over here the basic recommendation is two seconds, minimum. But that, for me, is a blue smoke job. At two seconds I believe that even if the person behind is alert they are still going to have a problem stopping in time if everything suddenly goes pear-shaped in front.

As previously mentioned UK Police Driving Schools recommend three to four seconds as a following position. I remember discussing this with a former police driving instructor and he commented that he always used to ask his students, 'Can you (at any time) stop the vehicle undramatically?' Because, obviously, if they couldn't, they had got it wrong in his eyes.

The other advantage, of course, of being well back is that you are principally part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. The closer you are to the one in front, the more you become part of the problem. It is not always easy, as you have mentioned. But I feel safety comes before convenience; the same sort of thing can happen over here.

My view is that, frustrating though it might be, you just have to let the space be taken and then re-adjust the following position. Otherwise, you start to become competitive and defensive about your space, and that is not, in my book, a good mind-set for safety.

Dovetailing with that I was impressed with the Attitude Awareness page which you referred to.

The other thing about holding well back, of course, is that you have more view of what's going on in front of the vehicle in front of you, or even numerous vehicles in front of you, which is even better. And, as you know, the further ahead you can see, the further ahead you can plan. The idea obviously is that you will see the situation which the one in front might have to respond to before they do and be able to anticipate their actions. That way you don't get caught out. At least, that is the way we would look at it over here.
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17292 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  4:03 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Roadcraft, as I remember it, has far more to do with a safety mindset than it does with the particulars of whether or not a 3 second following distance is safer than a 2 second following distance. A four second distance would be even safer, and so on, but there is, as Scott mentioned, the unfortunate reality that when you increase following distance greater than what others feel is reasonable, they will likely as not attempt to encroach on that space and that, in turn, raises the danger level.

Two seconds of following distance has nothing to do with how quickly you can stop, but, instead, how fast you can react. Since the typical reaction time for a motorcyclist is on the order of one second, that means that you must have at least that much following distance in order to be able to recognize and react to the behavior of the vehicle in front of you, in order to begin a similar or avoidance behavior BEFORE you get to where that vehicle started its odd behavior.

That is a virtual guarantee that you can avoid a collision with the vehicle in front of you. If you are both moving at 60 mph, and if you maintain a two-second following distance, then if it takes you one second to recognize and react to that vehicle doing a panic stop, you can do a panic stop and leave 88 feet of space between you and the car in front when you both come to a dead stop. All you have to miss him by is a fraction of an inch, so 88 feet is rather a large safety cushion, I'm sure you'd agree.

But back to Roadcraft... It is the safety mindset, something I talk about here all the time, that makes application of all the 'rules' such as following distance somewhat a given. A safety mindset has you scanning for potential problems and creating emergency response scenarios that can be employed REACTIVELY, instead of after a delay caused by having to think about what you should/can do after a threat presents itself. It is what causes you to cover your front brake even though you see no threat to you while riding. It is why you wear your gear ALWAYS.

That part of Roadcraft deserves more attention here, and I hope you will share some of that with us.
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Axiom2000
Male Moderator
1761 Posts
[Mentor]


Georgetown, Delaware
USA

BMW

F 800 GT

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  4:07 PM
The MSF does teach the 2 second following distance.
The following is from the BRC Riders Hand Book regarding lead times.

quote:
Here are three lead times that you can use. They are the 2-second following distance, the 4-second immediate path, and the 12-second anticipated path.

The first lead-time is the
2-second following distance. It is considered to be a minimum distance when conditions are ideal. Less than perfect riding conditions (e.g. reduced traction or visibility. Consider using a 3- or 4-second following distance for a greater margin of safety, or when less than ideal riding conditions.

The second lead-time is the
4-second immediate path. Anything that is within 4 seconds of your
path is considered immediate because a quick response is required if something should go wrong. Four seconds provides time and space to swerve and/or brake for fixed hazards or for someone or something entering your path.

The third lead-time is the
12-second anticipated path. Proper searching technique requires that you scan 12 seconds ahead. This means to look ahead to an area it would take that long to reach. It provides time to prepare for a situation before it becomes immediate


When I teach the course I reinforce the fact that the 2 second following distance is indeed a minimum requiring ideal conditions. I also note rider skill level plays a big part in the definition of ideal.

Thanks
Jerry







.




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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17292 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  4:30 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
quote:
I also note rider skill level plays a big part in the definition of ideal.

I'm afraid that I can't buy into that argument. The MSF cannot have foreknowledge of what skills motorcyclists who are riding together (one following the other) have and yet they still argue that a two-second following distance is reasonable and adequate. At best your argument can only be in relative terms - something else that the MSF cannot know about.

If you happen to be an excellent brake master, but if you are following a world-class brake master, what does that say about how much following distance should be maintained? And if he was following you? And, of course, the odds are that neither of you know much (if anything) other than superficially about the other's skill level.

No, I believe that 'skill' level is far from being a key ingredient in deriving a safe following distance. Most important is your health and reaction times (which includes your ability to be alert for extended periods of time), while environmental factors play second in importance. If you are following someone while canyon carving, and that person goes out of sight from time to time because of a bend in the road, you are following too closely. If it is foggy, two seconds is insanity.

Skill level may well be a distant third in terms of determining following distance, to my mind.

By the way, I think most people here know that when I talk about reaction times in this context I actually mean PDR times. That is, the time it takes you to Perceive a threat added to the time you take to Decide if and how to react to it, added to the time it takes you to then begin Reacting.
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Nigel A
Male Junior Member
68 Posts


TAUNTON, Somerset
United Kingdom

(None)

Formerly BMW 80RT

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  4:59 PM
James commented that he feels Roadcraft is more about a safety mindset than about stopping distances. Well, yes and no, James. It's first and foremost about safety, about not getting into situations which others uwittingly are in from which they have little or no escape if things go badly wrong in front, or to the side (such as junctions). It deals with the two important elements; the mechanical aspect such as how and when to manage the vehicle, viz System, positioning etc and it also, very importantly, deals with mindset. The importance of mindset, obviously, is that that determines implimenation; how the mechanical bits are put into effect. For example if a person is slightly too eager they may not impassionately weigh up all the facts before committment to an overtake, sometimes with fatal results. So, yes, of course, mindset is crucially important and Dr Gordon Sharp's contribution at the beginning of the 2007 Roadcraft, 'Mental Skills for Better Driving' are an important foundation for all that follows.

Just referring back to following position and it's relationship to safety I go back to Andy Ware's comments when he was a (police driving) instructor that he expected his pupils to be able at all times and in all circumstances to be able to, if necessary, bring the vehicle to a stop, 'undramatically'. As you can appreciate the mark or a really good driver or rider is smoothness which also means never getting caught out and having to hang sharply on the brakes. Planned firm and progressive braking is a different matter, of course. At three to four seconds in a following position a driver or rider has a reasonably good chance of achieving this; at two seconds there is an issue! So it's not just a case over here as to whether a driver or rider can pull up in time, but whether they can still do it in a controlled manner rather than as a desperate action. That's apart from the fact that with the shorter following distance there will generally be a loss of view. However, in a hold-back prior to an overtake it is necessary to close up to a 'contact position' from which the point of committment to make the overtake can easily be achieved.

Remember that on police advanced courses in Andy Ware's day, they were doing up to maybe 130mph on UK main roads, dual-carriageways and motorways and doing it in complete safety. The maxim of UK police driving might well be, 'So long as it is safe'. And then we need to define, of course, what is safe. My own view of safety relates to what I might call the 'vulnerability factor'. There are many who may not have had a crash, but when you look at their driving behviour they are much like the next crash waiting to happen. For me those are unsafe drivers or riders and I need to keep well clear of them when on the road.

Thanks to you, Jerry, for your contribution from the BRC Riders Hand Book. Very interesting. This twelve second thing is good if you have plenty of view and a wide road, much as I think you often do over there. Over here going through busy town conditions it might only be prudent to be scanning two to three seconds aheadn and, of course, you reduce the speed accordingly. So you are often scanning from a short view to a long view and vice versa; very often having more than one threat possibility in mind at a single moment of time. The civilian learner driver will be taught to concentrate on the hazard nearest to them and when they have dealt with that they look ahead to the next one. At advanced level and police driving schools people will be taught to look at the furtherest extent of the road then and check for the hazards back from there.
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Nigel A
Male Junior Member
68 Posts


TAUNTON, Somerset
United Kingdom

(None)

Formerly BMW 80RT

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  5:02 PM
James. I like the PDR bit. Never hear of that before but it makes alot of sense.
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17292 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  5:07 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
quote:
The civilian learner driver will be taught to concentrate on the hazard nearest to them and when they have dealt with that they look ahead to the next one. At advanced level and police driving schools people will be taught to look at the furtherest extent of the road then and check for the hazards back from there.

Do you really mean that? I am all for doing a repetitive series of scans where you pay attention to what is in front of you, then what is happening to your sides, and then behind you, and I am certainly of the opinion that you must NOT focus ONLY on nearby threats, but by the same token I cannot imagine giving a nearby threat less attention/importance, or as your comment suggests, less priority than one that is farther away.
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rioguy
Ex-Member

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  5:44 PM
Nigel,

I'm real glad you have come to this forum. You are bringing a lot of new information.

American drivers who care seem to place the emphasis on getting out of trouble. Roadcraft seems to focus on staying out of trouble. I personally agree with the concept that staying out of trouble is more important. This is not said to diminish the importance of having the skills to get out of trouble.

Personally, my scan is circular, from distant to close. I generally look much further ahead than 12 seconds unless something closer demands my attention. By the time it is within 4 seconds, usually, I already have a plan to deal with it. There are very few times a hazard spontaneously occurs within 4 seconds that I haven't already recognized. The most common exception is critters.

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Axiom2000
Male Moderator
1761 Posts
[Mentor]


Georgetown, Delaware
USA

BMW

F 800 GT

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  6:36 PM
James,
It sounds as if you are referring to a motorcyclist following a motorcyclist. Although that would certainly apply, it was not what I had in mind. In general, the MSF teaches that the lower your riding skill level, the more time and space cushion you should provide for yourself. Not sure I see what is wrong with that.
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17292 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  7:00 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Mild tangents taken here.

The issue I was addressing was whether or not the 2-second rule was based on skill levels or reaction time.

I have no problem, whatever, with the advice that if your skill level is low you should opt for more following distance. The 2-second rule does not tell you how much distance you should maintain, it tells you what the minimum distance should be.
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Nigel A
Male Junior Member
68 Posts


TAUNTON, Somerset
United Kingdom

(None)

Formerly BMW 80RT

Posted - 05/26/2009 :  1:37 AM
James. It was probably my bad way of explaining things. You are quite right nearer hazards in obviously have a higher priority than those further way. What you actually do is initially look all the way down the road and then note the hazards, and their relative importance, all the way back to you.

As you can appreciate, this can all be done in a moment, so you will probably, almost simultaneously, have logged the threat which is closest to you and taken action, if needed, to deal with it. But you will also have in mind the general picture and threats beyond that.

Rioguy. I think you are absolutely right in the basic difference in mindsets, and that state-side they concentrate a lot on emergency actions or what might otherwise be called evasion techniques.

I was talking with a friend who runs advanced road driving courses, primarily for those with very potent Caterham Sevens (http://www.caterham.co.uk/), which are about as close as you can get to engine and four wheels and still be sufficiently civilized to be be on the road. He said that he was teaching people emergency evasion techniques. I said that if they are that bad, I wouldn't even want to be there.

So, yes, Roadcraft is all about being part of the solution and not part of the problem. And, yes, it is (much as James has suggested) a brain thing. If you go out with an advanced UK police driver on, say, a simulated emergency run or advanced open road drive, you will see calmness and orderliness, even at very high speed. If it gets dramatic (harsh, sudden braking,for example), he knows he got it wrong. The point here is that in order for all this calmness to take place, it is all going on in the brain, so that all actions are taken early and 'in good time'. Much like what we call the swan concept, 'All calm and composition on the top, and paddling like hell underneath.'

Some idea of this can be found in Chris Gilbert's DVD, Ultimate Driving Craft. There are some good examples of this mindset and driving technique, with commentary. Chris was an Advanced Wing Instructor at Hendon for many years and was also the Hendon representative on the government-instigated Roadcraft Working Party.

The 'critters excepted' is just the same over here, although I suppose you may well have more of them, so the risk of that happening may be higher. Thanks also for your kind words.

Interestingly the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) over here has just brought in a 'swerve test', (for example, http://highwaylass.blogspot.com/200...ad-news.html) which has been the result of EU legistlation. It is trained and tested 'off-road.' The idea from the EU/DSA is obviously to reduce crashes and injuries on the road, but at the moment, there is great furor because it has already caused a lot of injuries. It must be performed at a minimum of 31mph. But through the ignorance of those sitting in ivory towers in Brussels, this is a downward slide towards the general American sort of mentality.

It will be interesting to see what happens because the motorcycle instructors here are generally up in arms about it. So, again, it all comes back to observation and planning, which dovetails exactly with what you were saying.
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