A common response to the recommendation of a Protector taking a Protection Driving Course is often; “I have a driver’s license and I know how to drive”. And for some they will add, “I have been driving for many years, so why do I need training?” Usually this is not asked as a question but more of a statement! Whether if it is a statement or if it is an honest question, it’s one that needs an answer!
As the title of this article suggests, I believe that there is a parallel between annual or periodic firearms training and testing, and driver training and testing. Regarding firearms training and testing, many say I have a pistol permit and have been carrying for many years, why do I need to train or shoot a qualifying course every year? Just because someone has a pistol permit, or that have carried a firearm for many years, how do we actually know that they can shoot? Or more specifically, can they hit what they are aiming at? And under stress?
To test someone’s ability with a firearm. we have them shoot a qualifying course of fire, that has an established consideration of an acceptable pass/fail score. Basic levels are between 70-80%, and some advanced courses require higher such as Virginia does for the Armed PPS requirement which is 92%. It is a method to measure their shooting ability, using a timer and a specific target, and having the shooter draw and fire accurately within a certain amount of time, that has been deemed realistic and practical. This is one way to measure someone’s shooting ability.
So how do we measure someone’s driving capability and why is it necessary? It is estimated (by those that do those sort of things), that the average driver only uses about 40% of the vehicle’s capability. Every vehicle can be measured as to its capability regarding handling, given the vehicle’s weight and handling design, and when driving in a designed course using mathematical formulas, it is possible to measure a driver’s capability within a given vehicle. And it is recommended that a protection driver meet or exceed 80% of the vehicle’s capability, which is believed to be a reasonable expectation of a professional driver assigned to protect a principal, as well as the ability to take evasive action to avoid an accident or an ambush (both have similar characteristics).
Two time-proven training exercises which are measurable are the slalom and the evasive lane change exercises. In addition, the brake and turn exercise can measure a driver’s ability to brake hard and turn the wheel to avoid an obstacle. Other recommended exercises are straight line backing, “Y” turns (sorry “J” turns are not only not recommended but discouraged), reverse slalom, reverse counter-ambush, and a lane shift or “chicane”. And to bring everything together into a “combined skills exercise” along with some added stress is a real test of using the vehicle to the best of its ability.
Is there really a parallel between driving and shooting? Both activities involve possible life and death circumstances! Each year there are in the neighborhood of 30,000 deaths in vehicles, and around the same number of deaths related to firearms. Many deaths of drivers are self-inflicted, and the same is true for those who handle firearms. Generally speaking, regulated armed security are required to qualify once a year, by shooting a specific course of fire. While those doing protection driving is not required by law to drive a qualifying driving course that is measurable, it is certainly recommended to “re-train” or “re-certify” at least every two years.
If you sit behind the wheel and provide protection to a principal (EP Behind the Wheel), you are bringing two distinct disciplines of driving and protecting into one combined activity, and as a professional, it is prudent of you to train and improve your ability and to qualify your ability by being tested, just the same as proving your ability with a firearm. And just like shooting, which is a perishable skill, evasive driving skills may also perish over time, which is why it is recommended to re-train and be re-tested periodically at least every two years.
This article was originally published in Executive Protection and Secure Transportation Magazine Spring 2021 Issue.