Last month I wrote about the 80% rule. The 80% rule states that “we must never exceed 80% of our vehicle’s capability.” The article discussed smoothness, simple dynamics and controlling speed as factors in maintaining optimum control of a vehicle. Also, possible indicators of exceeding 80% of a vehicle’s maximum capability were reviewed.
The 80% rule, however, does not apply only to the vehicle. Exceeding 80% of the driver’s capability or skill level can also result in an increased probability of a loss of control. Many things can have an effect on the driver’s skill level and his or her skill level is not always constant. Training properly is the most important method of improving driver capability. The instructor teams at EROC know that our programs will improve driver ability to the point where operating the vehicle at its 80% level is fully achievable. However, there are other human factors that can vary from person to person and from situation to situation that, while identifiable, are much more difficult to deal with in a training environment. Some of those factors are:
- Distractions – both mental and physical as well as inside or outside of the vehicle
- Emotions – angry, competitive, worried, “contempt of cop”
- Fitness – tired, ill, on medication, age
- Perception – eyesight and depth perception issues, other cognitive issues
- Space management – inability to make proper judgments in a spatial environment
- Alcohol or drugs – hangover, prescription drugs, drug or alcohol addiction
The Society of Automotive Engineers recently conducted a study which showed that, when confronted with an emergency situation, the average driver’s skills begin to fail at just 40% of the vehicle’s capability. While it must be acknowledged that people have different skill levels, the fact that the “average” driver begins to fail at such a low level of performance is disconcerting. A police officer operating a patrol vehicle must be held to a much higher standard of performance. Here at EROC, we have scientifically based training programs that can identify the maximum handling capabilities of a vehicle as well as any percentage of that capability. We can train the officer to understand the vehicle capabilities and his or her own skills and stay well within them, creating a margin of safety. We can improve the officer’s proficiency so they are far beyond the “average 40% driver.” We can also help the police officer become more cognizant of those “human” factors which can sometimes interfere with driving success.
With the fast approach of winter weather, our focus for next month will be on winter driving skills. Until then:
Stay safe out there!
Senior Range Instructor
EROC Blue Division