In the first of our four part series on driving as a police officer, Driver Training Standards manager at South Wales Police, Gareth Morgan told us about the Unit and how police officers learn to drive
Learning to drive is tough at the best of times, but what’s it like for police officers and do they have skills which could make you a better driver?
Starting out as a police driving instructor
Having started his career as an engineer, Gareth said it was the variety of opportunities and the chance to experience some extraordinary situations which helped him make the decision to become a police officer.
After progressing to a dual trained traffic officer in the police force, he took the Motorcycle and Car Instructor exams. He says this was a huge eye-opener as he had to be ‘a coach, a teacher, a confidant and above all a safety valve within the car’ to ensure the safety of the students. When a vacancy became available at the Driving Training Unit, Gareth jumped for it.
How do police officers learn to drive?
The Driver Training Unit at South Wales Police teaches students to drive as a police officer, taking a disciplined approach to dealing with an unpredictable environment of hazards and opening students’ eyes to different driving skills.
Gareth said examinations are tough, with officers having to pass Highway Code and Road craft exams with an 86% pass mark. To be a response or blue light driver they undergo a three week course which covers the emergency aspects of using high speed and other legal exemptions appropriately.
Technology to help learner drivers
One thing he is especially proud of within the Driver Training Unit is its award-winning driving simulator which was created by British company XPI Simulation. At its inception it was believed to be the only simulator of its kind in England and Wales.
The simulator allows the students to be tested on their behaviour, risk assessment and hazard awareness. Gareth told us it was developed to combat the cost and safety concerns associated with learning on the roads.
He said: "We set out to research how we could be more effective and efficient in the daily delivery of training. The trainers are able to measure performance and benchmark that against others, whilst also reducing risk and carbon footprint levels."
In addition to the simulator, the Driver Training Unit uses psychometric profiling to allow driver trainers to get a better insight into driver behaviour and provide more effective training.
There is also more of an emphasis on staff welfare, by taking into account fatigue and stress. Gareth thinks this scientific and research-led approach is a great advancement in driver training as this is something they’d never really had access to before.