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What do British motorcycle cops know that you don’t? Well, the concept of IPSGA, for one thing.
Then, there’s the awareness about the so-called “red mist” – which is easy to enter when you’re a motorcycle cop riding to a scene of the crime.
In this blog post, you’ll learn:
- What the “red mist” is, how it affects your safety as a rider and how to deal with it
- What “IPSGA” stands for, and how you can apply it
But first, let’s address the question you’re probably dying to hear the answer for:
What Do British Motorcycle Cops Know That You Don’t?
There’s no doubt that being a police officer is a very stressful job – having to put your life on the line to protect the lives of other people is no easy task.
Being a motorcycle police officer is even more stressful – in addition to the everyday stress of regular officers, motorcycle cops also have to deal with the risks that come with riding a motorcycle.
But how can you ride as safely as possible when you have to get to a scene of a crime as quickly as possible?
It’s not an easy task – that’s why there’s a special book for motorcycle cops in the United Kingdom called “Roadcraft: The Police Rider’s Handbook”
Endorsed by the British emergency services, the book is primarily for motorcycle police officers, but it’s also suitable for regular riders who want to improve their own roadcraft.
This brings us to the concept of “Red Mist.”‘
“Red Mist” Meaning
“Red mist” isn’t something you’d see at a football game – at least not in this context.
The “red mist” describes a phenomenon when the rider becomes so focused on a specific task of their journey (whether it’s getting to work on time or catching a suspect) – and by doing so, they become “blind” to other hazards on the road.
It’s a lot like target fixation or tunnel vision in that sense – but there are some differences.
Red Mist vs. Target Fixation
Target fixation happens when your eyes focus on a specific road hazard, such as a wooden plank in your lane. Because you’re too focused on the plank instead of an escape path, you inevitably hit the plank – since your motorcycle goes where you’re looking.
“Red mist,” on the other hand, is all in your head. You’re not focusing on something directly in front of you, but rather about something else – such as getting to a crime scene as quickly as you can.
You’ve become hung up on your goal on both a mental and even an emotional level.
Of course, by doing that, you’re putting not just yourself in danger – you’re also endangering the lives of others.
At worst, you can’t assess risks and hazards while you’re in the “red mist.”
Let’s move on to the system British motorcycle cops use to overcome Red Mist (as well as a few other things) called “IPSGA.”
IPSGA – What Is It?
IPSGA is an acronym that stands for:
Even if you’re not a British motorcycle police officer (or a motorcycle police officer anywhere else), you can still apply IPSGA to enhance your riding skills.
To understand how to apply IPSGA in practice, let’s go over each letter in greater detail:
Scan your surroundings and ask yourself:
1: “What information do I need to gather about:”
- Road conditions
- The behavior of other road users
- Potential and actual dangers on the road
2: “Which are the greatest dangers to me as a motorcycle rider?”
3: “What do other road users need to know about my intentions?”
Then, use that information to plan how to deal with the hazards.
Position yourself to make it easier to deal with a hazard.
Adjust your speed, while taking things like visibility, road surface, lean angle, and other road users (including pedestrians and cyclists) into account.
Select the best possible gear for the speed you need to be in to deal with the hazard.
As you do this, avoid late heavy braking, as well as using your gears as brakes.
Use the right amount of acceleration to deal with the hazard, and choose the best possible escape path.
IPSGA In Action
The best way to use IPSGA is to use it in context to the situation. As an example, let’s look at a left-hand turn:
As you approach the turn, think about:
- What you’re able to see (including anything that obstructs your view, like a tree)
- What the traffic flow is like
- Any hazards or obstructions that you can already see
Once you’ve processed the information, go through the remaining steps:
- Position yourself accordingly
- Adjust your Speed
- Change to another Gear (if necessary)
- Accelerate out of the turn
As the road conditions change (e.g., traffic begins bushing up), you need to take in this new information – remember to revisit the “Information” stage question and consider all the phases.
But while as vital as it is to consider all the phases, it’s also vital to note that you might not have to go through every single step of the IPSGA process.
It all depends on the scenario – sometimes, you might only have to adjust your positioning to deal with a hazard safely.
Other times, you have to change your position, slow down, change gear and accelerate.
In some cases, you might even have to return to an earlier stage (i.e., go from “Gear” to “Speed”) if you encounter a new hazard.
For example, say you arrive at a junction where you expect a car to pull out in front of you.
This means anticipating having to stop – meaning that you’ll have to change to a lower gear and then slow down.
Once you’ve made absolutely sure that the other driver won’t pull out, then you can change to a higher gear and accelerate out of the junction.
And that’s how to use IPSGA
As you can see, British motorcycle cops know a lot – and for a good reason. It’s this knowledge of IPSGA that keeps them alive in many cases.
If you’d like to read more about IPSGA and some other riding techniques taught to British motorcycle police officers, I highly recommend Roadcraft: The Police Rider’s Handbook.