The "Speed doesn't kill, stupidity kills" title is deliberately provocative as I disagree with the official "Speed Kills" campaigns. The police and other sundry bureaucrats in this country periodically run campaigns about speed being the root of all evil when it comes to accidents. Personally, I think the bald statement about speed being a killer is disingenuous and does a disservice in shifting focus away from some other important issues. How fast is too fast? It clearly depends on prevailing conditions but no doubt some public servants would only be happy if we reverted to having someone walking with a red flag in front of us just like the early days of motoring. After all, politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.
Some some road users who drive slowly are an utter menace as are some people who drive quickly - it's all a question of competence. So what do we mean by competence? Does the word "experience" mean the same thing? I certainly used to think so. A short while ago, I received the latest free newsletter from an NZ organisation involved with motorcycle safety. (More on this organisation later). In the newsletter, there's a piece on some new research at Nottingham University in the UK by researchers in the Engineering and Psychology faculties. Funded by the Institute for Advanced Motorists (IAM), the research project investigated different rider behaviours, including forward planning, hazard perception and levels of risk taking. A unique approach was designed to find out whether or not riders with advanced training ride differently to novice or experienced riders who don’t have an advanced qualification.
Advanced training, in the context of the study, related to people who had recently (in the last 3 years) completed the Institute of Advanced Motorists, 'Skills for Life' advanced training. The idea of the research was to explore issues associated with behaviour, skills and attitudes of the different rider groups.
Moving to the findings of the research, the research subjects were novice riders, experienced riders and riders who had taken advanced motorcycle training. The summary of findings are:
- Experience on its own does not necessarily make riders safer on the road and in some cases the experienced riders behaved more like the novice riders.
- Those riders who had taken advanced motorcycle safety training used better road positioning to anticipate and respond to hazards, kept to urban speed limits, and actually made better progress through bends than the other groups of novice and experienced bikers.
"This is real cutting edge research and the hazard perception results, in particular, have shown that advanced riders were quicker to identify hazards and had a greater awareness on their responsibility to themselves and other road users," Dr. David Crundall from the School of Psychology added. "The results indicate that, indeed, the advanced riders had a different mind set to the other groups - especially when we looked at other aspects of the research such as hazard perception skills and interpretations of liability. We referred back to 'locus of control' theory and used a standard questionnaire to investigate if our rider groups had a fundamentally different mindset from the outset - they didn't (which was good!) but then when we looked at their interpretations of the hazards, we found that the advanced riders placed a greater emphasis on rider responsibility. When we looked back at their riding behaviour from the simulator we found that advanced riders took more defensive road positions that allowed greater views round bends etc. Interestingly, our 'experienced' group (standard riders with at least 3 years full licence and no advanced training) behaved in some respects like advanced riders and in others like novice riders - illustrating that experience (length of time riding) alone does not necessarily make people better riders."
Our NZ south island bike trip - no room for error here!
As soon as I saw the broad parameters of the research and the preliminary findings last week, it struck a strong personal chord. Regular readers of this blog will probably remember that I started riding in 1963. Because of the length of time riding, I was quite comfortable being regarded as an experienced rider. The concept of being an "Advanced Rider" didn't really register at all because "experienced" and "advanced" meant more or less the same thing to me. To use the proper description, I was "Unconsciously Incompetent" - didn't know what I didn't know and that being experienced still left knowledge gaps and uncorrected bad habits.
Then along came Honda Blackbird ownership in the early part of the last decade with its effortless, insane performance. It exposed my shortcomings rather quickly and to maintain my license and well-being, enrolled for an advanced riding course. That seminal experience (read ego-damaging) was posted in Memorable Motorcycling Moments . Since then, I've undertaken other forms of advanced rider/driver training but it was that first one which opened the floodgates to learning. Although bike handling was part of the course, it was the emphasis on situational awareness which was the real eye-opener..... and a life-saver come to that. The continuous process of identifying potential hazards and applying actions for mitigating them. Most of the techniques are quite straightforward but not necessarily intuitive so you need to be shown them and equally importantly; make their use second-nature on every ride.
It's my perception that as motorcyclists are vulnerable road users, they may well be more receptive to all forms of on-going training. Many courses specialise in bike-handling which is essential but courses which go into Situational Awareness in some depth seem less common, certainly in NZ. I'll be forever grateful that I found one that did pretty much by accident.
In an earlier post, it was suggested that some of these techniques should be taught at a practical level much earlier in a persons' motorcycle riding or car driving career. If they were, imagine what that might do for worldwide road accident statistics as opposed to the politicised and largely innefective offerings by authorities in most cases.
Maybe now, the phrase, "Speed doesn't kill, stupidity kills", makes a bit more sense, as does the difference between Novice, Experienced and Advanced Riders. Food for thought! How long is it since you've done any formal re-skilling or advanced training? Nothing like getting a 3rd party to observe your riding for a reality check. If it's more than 5 years since attending a course, I hope you have the good grace to blush!
Going back to the NZ organisation I get the free newsletter from, it's available to anyone on request. Published by Allan Kirk at NZ Motorcycle Safety Consultants, simply email Allan at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be put on the mailing list. They also have a website at http://www.megarider.com/ through which various beginner and more advanced training documents are available. I don't have any connection with NZMSC other than having purchased some of their training material which has been excellent value in initially raising my awareness (emergency braking in particular). Allan is also very open to discussion about safe riding issues.
"Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student"
- George Isles
- George Isles
"Boys Riding Weekend" in Coromandel, NZ