Monthly Archives: January 2014

Steering training for high speed pursuits

The in basket: Years ago, while I was still a reporter at The Sun, I covered a training session at Bremerton National Airport, where police and deputy sheriffs practiced high speed pursuits on a course marked off with cones.

One officer even let me drive the course, and told while I did that the then-current technique for steering in a high speed pursuit was to have one’s hands at the bottom of the wheel and steer by shuffling the bottom of the wheel through the hands.

I haven’t engaged in any high speed pursuits, or high speed anythings, since that day. But I have found that steering technique to be hard to master in day to day driving. I asked if that was still the approved method.

The out basket: Evidently, I misunderstood  what i was told, the instruction has changed or the officer who accompanied me on the course wasn’t correct.

State Trooper Russ Winger and Deputy Sheriff Scott Wilson, spokesmen for their respective agencies, told me that hands at 9 and 3 o’clock is the approved position, just as is taught us civilians in, say, the AARP safe driving course.

“In reality, drivers might modify slightly the position for comfort to say.. 9:30 and 2:30,” Russ added.

Scott agreed and said  that in his department’s emergency vehicle operations course (EVOC) training, currently held twice per year at the Bremerton Motorsports Park, EVOC instructors are teaching / emphasizing that the driver’s hands be placed at the 9 & 3 position on the steering wheel.

He even sent me a portion of the EVOC student handbook on steering. It’s surprisingly specific and detailed. It does refer to the prescribed technique as shuffle steering, which keeps the hands from crossing over or under the wheel and describes it thusly:

“Using a light grip between your thumbs and fingertips, place your hands at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions of the steering wheel (when traveling straight.)

“Mentally divide the steering wheel from the top (12 o’clock) position to the bottom (6 o’clock) position. Discipline yourself to keep your right hand on the right side of the steering wheel and your left hand on the left side of the steering wheel.

“When you see a turn and anticipate the need to make steering inputs, move the hand on the side of the wheel which is the same as the direction you anticipate moving, to the 12 o’clock position…while maintaining the other hand at the 3 o’clock position.

“As you begin to feed steering in, smoothly pull the steering wheel down towards 6 o’clock. The support hand mirrors the hand making the steering input until the hands physically touch at 6 o’clock.

“At this point, the support hand becomes the lead hand and smoothly continues making the steering inputs, taking the steering wheel back towards 12 o’clock.

“This process will slow down your hands, balance the driver and keep a constant frame of reference for the driver about the direction the tires are pointed.”

It goes on to authorize 3 and 9 positioning of the hands “when the driver is surprised by the environment and does not have time to shuffle steer,” but says to do it as smoothly as possible.

You can be cited for honking in anger – but probably won’t be

The in basket: A couple of weeks  ago when I wrote a column about drivers who refuse to turn right at a red light and get honked at, Rob Cupples commented on the Road Warrior blog at with a piece of information that no doubt would surprise a lot of drivers.

“Just an FYI,” he wrote. “Some folks have been written tickets under RCW 46.37.380 for honking their horn behind somebody who would not go. The horn is only supposed to be used as a warning for safe operation of your vehicle.”

Rob is right. That law says, “The driver of a motor vehicle shall when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation give audible warning with his or her horn but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway.”

But I wonder if he can name anyone so cited. I’ve never heard of such a ticket being written, and I asked two of my law enforcement sources if they had.

The out basket: Neither Trooper Russ Winger of the state patrol here nor Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department knew of such an actual citation.

“Personally,” said Scott, “I haven’t known of a KCSO sheriff’s deputy issuing a notice of infraction to a driver for violation of this statute.  A cursory check of our records data system, going back to Jan. 1, 2000, shows no KCSO infraction written for violation of RCW 46.37.380(1).”

“I have not cited or stopped a driver for that violation in my career,” said Russ. “I have not heard of any officer doing it either, though it has, I’m sure. Not something an officer is going to be telling stories about in our world. Extremely rare is my guess.”

I would speculate, never having been told this by an officer, that they recognize there is an inherent danger in any traffic stop from passing traffic – for the officer, for the stopped driver and for the passing traffic. They’re probably reluctant to essentially make the roadway less safe by stopping someone on the shoulder for something like illegal honking.

That’s also probably why so many vehicle owners get away with no front license plate.

Anyway, be aware that it’s legal to use your horn to say, “Watch out, I’m passing you” or “Don’t pull out, I’m right here” but technically illegal to honk if you love Jesus or to say, “Long time no see” or “The light’s changed, dipwad” or “Can we go the speed limit at least?” Or “You can turn right when the signal is red, you know.”


Third drivers permit takes some doing, and then it may be denied

The in basket: Brenda Hamre writes, asking for an explanation of something she has run into with the state Department of Licensing.

“We don’t understand why there is a limit on the number of Driving Permits allowed,”  she said. “Or why DOL gets to make that decision for an individual.

Brenda said her 21-year-old daughter does not have a driver’s license. “While in high school she got her first Driving Permit so she could take Drivers Ed, but didn’t get her license before the first permit expired. Let’s just say that she wasn’t willing to spend much time practicing.

“I then made her get another permit so she would practice driving and finally get her license.

“She started attending Olympic College and we got her an ORCA Card so she could at least use the bus. By the time she decided that the bus was OK but she’d rather be driving, her second permit had expired. This was last June.
“When she went back to the DOL to again renew her permit she was told by the clerk that she had reached her limit and could not have another one. The clerk stated that she ‘just needs to get her license.’ At that point she again had not been behind the wheel in months and I can not afford to pay for her to take a test that she would fail – over and over.

“Now that she is FINALLY motivated to get behind the wheel and bugging me all the time to actually practice driving, we see on the DOL Website that there is a “two permit limit,” so technically she can’t get another one. Ever!

“What in the world is that about? She hasn’t been behind the wheel in almost a year so she needs to practice. My insurance won’t cover her driving a vehicle without a valid permit so I run the risk of something happening to my vehicle which would not be covered. Potentially I could lose my transportation.

I feel like DOL is forcing us to drive illegally and I don’t understand how they can do that!” Brenda said. “My daughter NEEDS to get her license! Can you give me any advice on how she can get another permit so that she can practice driving legally and be covered by insurance? The DOL clerk was NOT helpful.”

The out basket: The door for Brenda’s daughter isn’t shut as tightly as she has been told, though there IS a two permit limit in the law. It’s been that way for decades and Christine Anthony, a spokesman for DOL, could only guess that it was passed to address people who wanted to drive permanently under the restrictions imposed by a permit and never get a license.

She pointed out the following on the DOL Web site addressing the very dilemma Brenda and her daughter face: “We may issue you a third permit under certain circumstances. To request another renewal, visit a drivers licensing office and ask to speak to a supervisor. They will ask what steps you’re taking to ensure you’ll get a driver license if we issue you a third  permit. After you tell them what you’re doing to get a license, the supervisor will decide whether to issue you a new permit.”

Oft-damaged guard rail in Gorst to get reflective surface

The in basket: Don Palmer of Gorst says the guard rail in Gorst where traffic can branch off to head toward Belfair or follow the curve to the left to go toward Tacoma is hit and damaged by vehicles so often some changes should be made.

He said it has been damaged about a hundred times since it was built. He recommends that a yellow caution arrow sign that includes a 30 mph recommended speed  be moved closer to Bremerton to give drivers headed toward the guard rail more time to react, and be surrounded by blinking lights to make it more visible. He also suggests spare guard rail be stored behind the one in place to shorten the time it takes to make a repair. It has usually takes about a month to fix it whenever it has been hit, he said.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of the state’s Olympic Region public affairs staff said department officials have looked over the situation and “we have decided that the best course of action is to place reflective sheeting on the rail.  “The product we will use is highly reflective and will make the rail standout at night,” she said.  “It will take a few weeks to get the product delivered, but we will install it as soon as we get it.

“We believe the reflective sheeting will be much more effective than moving the turn sign or installing additional illumination,” she said.