UK law in 2020 in relation to emergency response driving is an ass.
Currently, a learner driver must demonstrate a basic level of driving competence during their practical driving test before they are permitted to drive alone as a full licence holder. In contrast, there is no equivalent legal requirement for those blue-light users entitled to exceed the statutory speed limits. The enactment of Section 19 of the Road Safety Act 2006 may one day address this anomaly. However, this is not expected any time soon.
In addition to high-speed driving training not currently being a legal requirement, there is no pragmatic, universal minimum standard of driving competence applied to everyone responding urgently to emergencies. The statutory emergency services have been doing a reasonable job of policing driving competence among their ranks. However, NHS ambulance trusts and police forces who rely on volunteers (such as MFRs [Medical First Responders] and police Special Constables) to meet their targets and obligations, might find themselves in an untenable position if they expect volunteers to use their annual leave to attend lengthy and costly driving courses.
If you’re entitled to use blue lights or exceed the speed limit, contact us about emergency driver training
Roadcraft, the police driver’s handbook, is a weighty tome. Regardless, it has become the foundation on which the emergency services base their emergency response driving courses. To assimilate it takes many weeks of reading, reflection and supervised experimentation. However, its essence can be distilled into a foundational level of training and learning that is shorter and more cost-effective than the established current norms across the emergency services.
In these times of austerity, where a consequence of reduced funding of the emergency services is an increasing reliance on volunteers, there is a need for a pragmatic alternative to the established norms within emergency driver training. A new foundational level of training and competence is required across the blue light services, which drives safety while improving access to driving training that is affordable to all blue light users, including those within the voluntary sector.
In addition to a universal minimum standard of high-speed driving training across all of the organisations permitted to exceed the statutory speed limits – including, but not limited to, the emergency services – legislation is needed to compel all of these organisations to do the right thing: make sure that all of their staff, contractors and volunteers are competent driving at high speeds.
And this needs to happen now.