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Roadcraft / DVSA – Some thoughts

By September 2, 2016January 1st, 2017ADI's, Advanced

First of all I’m not arguing that ADI’s should teach IPSGA instead of MSPSL –

There are millions of perfectly adequate drivers out there using the MSM routine and I’m not suggesting that they should change.

I am saying if you intend teaching IPSGA and Roadcraft to pupils of whatever level, you have a correct understanding of it – not an incomplete or inaccurate understanding  based solely on reading the book or receiving some civilian training often along with a belief that Roadcraft is in someway ‘incompatible’ with DVSA requirements.

(I’m a massive supporter of the Civilian Advanced Driving organisations, I’m heavily involved in both and have trained members of the public to the highest levels/tests for both of them but they’re limited by the fact that person training you is only giving you the same instruction that they had, which over time becomes diluted – i.e. you train someone who becomes a trainer who trains someone based on what they were taught and so on down like Chinese whispers)

Roadcraft is “The Police Drivers Handbook” – It was developed from a set of instructors notes from a police driving course. It was never intended to be read in isolation and its not even intended to be “the be all, and end all” of Police driving techniques.

It is intended to be the handbook for series of driving courses that might last in total up to 12 weeks while undergoing 8 hours of instruction a day either driving or watching someone else driving and being instructed.

It says right at the start “Special Techniques, such as those used in emergency response and pursuit driving are not covered. We recommend drivers consult their instructors for guidance”

For example – for some reason Straight Lining Roundabouts which seems to be much loved among civilian advanced drivers.  Yet you won’t find it anywhere in any edition of Roadcraft published from 1977 on, in fact it was removed after 1974 as its not a technique that should be practised without adequate instruction.

And while it might tell you about brake gear separation, and when and when not to do it, you won’t find a single word in there about sustained rev gear changes which are almost essential to correct use of the system.

How does the system really work?

(Side note – often the system is refereed to as having five phases of the system – it was revised in 2013 to four phases with information running throughout rather than as a unique phase)


The information phase often seems to cause discussion in particular with ADI’s and reference to the DVSA standard because they don’t fully realise how the mirrors and signals fit in and are misled by the “information running throughout the phase” with no real guidance.

The full system as taught is:

IPSGA Explained

Before any change to position or speed the driver checks behind them and considers if a deviation or a reinforced slowing down signal is needed.

This actually goes above and beyond MSPSL. If you consider the right turn diagram in the Essential Skills then in theory the driver checks the mirror once on approach and then never again!

Do you have to check the mirror at all the points I’ve suggested? Other than the first check No – But it should be *considered*  with regard to the time and distance lapsed between each phase. (In initial training the full system should be carried out completely all the time)

When carried out correctly it meets all the driving test requirements. In fact its rarely possible to tell if someone is using IPSGA instead of MSPSL, although the reverse isn’t true.


Not signalling when there is no-one around – Seems to be another bone of contention – Driving the Essentials skills suggests that you should not signal when moving off or stopping if there is no one to benefit.

Exactly the same as Roadcraft says.

If you are approaching a completely empty junction and you have all round visibility there is also no need to signal.

Look again at the MSM Routine described next to the right turn diagram in the Essential Skills –
It’s right there “SIGNAL – consider whether a signal is necessary – If it is signal your intention to change course

Exactly the same as Roadcraft says.

No-one is suggesting that approaching a closed junction (or any other hazard) to emerge with no-one behind you shouldn’t give a signal – You can’t see – therefore you can’t make a decision on if a signal is needed so err on the side of caution.

Following the full system above you’ll have completed the gear phase anyway and make the decision closer to the junction even if you didn’t on approach.

The Acceleration Phase –

This is a subject for another article but basically the Acceleration phase is split and takes place at point A1 or at point A2

Blind Spot / Shoulder Checks

Another common point of confusion -The mistaken belief that for some reason the DVSA doesn’t like shoulder checks on the move except when  joining a dual carriageway or motorway-

Driving the Essential Skills is again  quite clear on this  “A full over the shoulder look through either of the rear passenger side windows is not acceptable on the move” and isn’t what Advanced courses teach anyway.

We teach again exactly what Driving the Essential Skills says:

Looking right round to check blind spots on the move is unnecessary and dangerousTake a quick sideways glance, before changing lanes, joining a dual carriageway from a slip road, before manoeuvring in situations when traffic is merging from the left or right

It’s right there in the learner syllabus but not always taught by ADI’s.

Finally – Let’s deal with the myth –

The DVSA don’t recognise Roadcraft or IPSGA.

Driver training, tests and also standards checks for ADI’s are assessed against the DVSA National Standard for Driving Cars.

Right there on Page 1 of the standard:

“This standard makes frequent reference to the use of safe, systematic routine” – In all cases this should be taken to mean the use of routines such as “Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre – Position – Speed – Look” or “Information – Position – Speed – Gear – Acceleration