Lane Change – Evasive Maneuver – Accident Avoidance – Swerve to Avoid – no matter what it’s called they all have the same basic characteristics and are essential to all EVOC training programs. Over the years the feedback from former students indicates that the “Lane Change” exercise instills life-saving skills.
The purpose of the evasive maneuver is to simulate an unexpected event that can occur at anytime, anyplace and in a heartbeat.
An evasive maneuver consists of an entry gate, barrier, with lane gates on each side of the barrier and exit gate. As the driver approaches the entry gate, a command signal is given that requires the student to drive into one of the lane gates. There are many variations from that model, but again for the purpose of this article, we will stay with the basics.
One of the goals of the Evasive Maneuver is to create an emergency which is a time-distance relationship – how much time and how much distance does the student have to respond. Through exercise design, the instructor controls the amount of time and distance, and as important the amount of energy exerted on the vehicle.
The level of difficulty of the evasive exercises, and in turn, a measure of the student’s proficiency, is determined by the dimensions of the exercises, and where the command signal is given to the student.
The critical design aspects of the exercises are the distance from the entry gate to the barrier. The longer this dimension, the more time and distance the student will have to execute the command. The next critical dimension is the length of the barrier. A good rule of thumb is to make the length of the barrier equal to the length of a vehicle. If you use a Crown Vic as an example, the length of the barrier would be 18 Feet. The length of the barrier gate should be the width of a vehicle, again if you use the Crown Vic the barrier gate length would be 6.5 feet. The distance from the end of barrier gates to the exit gate should be the same distance as the distance from the entry gate to the barrier.
As important as the dimensions and maybe more important is, while in the entry gate, where and how the command to go left or right is given. How the command is given can be the subject of an article. In my years of doing this, I have seen about every conceivable method of giving the command. For this article, we will talk about where the command is given. In the design of the exercises, there is a place in the entry gate where the signal is given. If the command is given a half second earlier or later, it’s like driving the student through a different exercise.
As an example. A student drives into the entry gate at a speed of 40 MPH. If the command is given 12 feet sooner that is the same as giving the student .2 seconds more time to react (40 MPH equals 58.8 feet a second or 5.9 feet every .1 second). Conversely, if the instructor gave the signal 12 feet later that would be similar to taking away .2 seconds of reaction time. There is a substantial difference between giving the signal 12 feet sooner or 12 feet later.
Another way of looking at the example. If the command is given 75 feet from the barrier, and then it is given .2 seconds or 12 feet before the 75-foot mark the student now has 87 feet to execute the command. If it is given .2 seconds or 12 feet after the 75-foot mark they have 63 feet to execute the command. If everything is the same (the speed), the difference between having 87 feet to execute a decision and having 63 feet to execute a decision is rather exciting. As I tell the students if you think it was exciting from inside the car you should see what it looks like from outside the car.
That is the bad news here is the good news. As an instructor, you can use the above example as a teaching point. Purposely give the signal late and then early. Tell the student you are going first to take away .2 seconds of time and distance from the standard, then inform them you are going to give them .2 seconds from the standard.
The point it makes is one of the most important learning points a student can take away from an EVOC or for that matter any hands-on driving program. The sooner you get the steering wheel moving away from what is in front of you the greater your chances of having a non-event.