Government to include ‘motorcycle awareness’ in theory test

11.15 | 2 May | | | 21 comments

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed that motorcycle awareness will be added to the driving theory test, according to the campaigner behind a petition calling for its inclusion.

Ria Brisland launched the petition earlier this year, urging the Government to include a ‘mandatory section on how drivers and bikes can look out for each other on road’.

Ms Brisland’s 19-year-old son Nick was killed in a collision in Southampton three years ago, which she says was the result of ‘negligence’ by a driver who ‘pulled out and onto the road claiming he didn’t see him coming’.

In January, Ms Brisland set up an online petition outlining the proposed changes to the theory test, which to date has received more than 125k signatures.

In April, the petition was covered on Road Safety News, with a number of readers expressing support for the idea.

In the discussion thread, Jan James, CEO of Good Egg Safety, said: “This is definitely something Good Egg Safety – and our Good Egg Riders subsidiary – would support.

“‘Inattentional blindness’ is a major challenge which more drivers/riders should definitely be made aware of.

“Having attended a riders offenders course recently; it’s clear the riders themselves weren’t aware of the issue – and not one of the novice drivers we have taught in our Good Egg Driver events was aware either.”

Ms Brisland says that she will be meeting with Mr Grayling in the next couple of weeks to discuss the way forward, and is welcoming ideas and suggestions via email.


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    Nigel, Agreed ref getting learners to understand or be able to spot where/when things might go wrong.

    I taught my daughter to drive and as per your example drove home the principle of time and space enablung her to better deal with both hers and others errors.

    Me? Im not an ADI, all of my driver training qualifications are post test, from SAFED to RoSPA diploma and myself a civilian with a Police Standard Rider qualification.
    My reference to advanced driving was not as a criticism of it rather to say that you dont have to join a post test club and pass another test to apply some of the basic principles behind advanced driving techniques.

    Hugh it has been shown that scare tactics have no long lasting effects, it unfortunately promotes the idea that crashes only happen to somebody else, humans cannot imagine how another is feeling after suffering a loss so asking or expecting them to is futile, Safe Drive Stay Alive has adopted the above tactics for well over a decade despite numerous evaluations showing no long lasting effect.


    Chris Harrison, bristol
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    Nigel, perhaps you can direct me to the actual video to which you refer. There are many out there and I and I am sure others would like to view it to see what it depicts.

    Thank you for the offer of your own notes on overtaking matters but as we are not talking about them but basically what is actually recommended in the Roadcraft Manual I see no reason to include them.

    I await the video reference before this item is assigned to the past.


    M.Worthington, Manchester
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    I take your points, Hugh. Years ago, when road safety was in the hands of the police (and, in some ways better for it, I feel), we had an advanced group meeting where the speaker was the force Road Safety Office. He showed a film done by a US police force which had some explicit road crash scences. He asked us whether we thought this would have the right effect on the general public. I can’t remember the response but I think it was ultimately thought at force level to be too dramatic for the GP.

    No, I think you are right. I think the key is getting them to make the decision, as though they thought of it themselves, then they will be more motivated, ‘How would you feel if your wife and family died, or became disabled, because of something you did (or possibly didn’t do) in your driving?’ for example. Well, it’s not the best example but no doubt you get the idea.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    I agree Nigel – the reluctant driver is the hardest target audience.. I would also add the arrogant driver as well, because a fundamental human nature problem for some is that they do not like to be told what to do, especially where their driving is concerned, as everyone thinks they are ‘good’ drivers and resent being told otherwise.

    I’m not convinced showing the ‘resistant’ driver shocking videos works or explaining stopping distances has any effect. I’ve met many speeding motorists who accepted that their speed was too fast to be able to stop in time and also accepted that they were a high accident risk but – knowing this, they could not at the same time explain why they kept doing it! Any psychologists out there who can explain this apparent self-destruct attitude in some drivers? Why do drivers who are one offence away from a ban continue to speed? It’s a though the thrill of the moment is greater than the potential consequences.


    Hugh Jones
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    Brifely, M.Worthington, if you look on the Roadcraft video, I think it is just before the skid control part, you will see some overtakes where the instructor says, ‘Out, check, go’. The commitment to overtake is not from behind the target vehicle, it is ‘out’ where there is clear view to make the go, no-go decision.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    +1

    Hugh. I don’t think you can teach a reluctant driver. In sales I learned that people do things for their reasons, no ours. The ‘reluctant driver’ will have vulnerabilies which, given just the wrong chance timing, will put both him and his passengers, very possibly his family, at risk. It’s that vulnerability factor. For example if he is shown conclusively that at, 1 second following distance he has absolutely no chance if things suddenly go pear-shaped ahead, then he will make changes and stand a better chance of keeping to them. So the key obviously is to help people motivate themselves. Once they feel vulnerable they will change, and probably be more alert into the bargin. So they will keep more space and give themselves more time. With higher threat perception they are more likely to slow down where they wouldn’t before, so they will be safer from a number of angles – and all because of a simple example which helped them feel vulnerable. However, one has to say, that the downside is that he, or she, is possibly going to say, ‘But why should I worry, I have this wonderful (possibly large) vehicle with an untold number of safety features, so I am alright (Jack!)’. I suppose the answer to that one is to show him/her crash pictures where no amount of safety features would have saved driver or passengers.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    Thank you, Chris. Comments noted.

    In my view what is necessary to understand is that, for example, the correct and safest way to overtake is not one you would put into the hands of learners. Like anything you should start at a basic simple level and, if they are sufficiently enthusiastic, and responsible in their attitude, build up from there. So it is not a matter of rule breaking, per se; it’s a matter of scale.

    What is interesting is your use of the phrase ‘so called advanced driving’, which suggests that you haven’t’ been there. I have had a lot of experience with ADI’s and, unfortunately, there is a strong cadre who feel that anything over and above the standard test level is irrelevant. Little do they know or, will come to know.

    One also needs to bear in mind the most drivers, if they have done nothing more than the standard driving test will, in most cases, have slipped back from that level and are, in my view, mostly like the next crash waiting to happen. This means that most, if they were spot tested today, would fail the standard driving test. It was Chris Gilbert, another former Hendon Advanced Wing Instructor who said that. ‘the standard driving test is the lowest level of competence for driving on the roads’; effectively the bottom rung on the ladder. So, if the average driver has no enthusiasm for the subject and is generally below a basic level of competence, then they need to be kept to basics, even though most don’t keep to them anyway, so you certainly wouldn’t trust them with anything requiring a higher level of thinking and decision making.

    What you define as ‘so called advanced driving’ should be a development for all drivers to improve their safety level and at least help ensure they don’t slip back below the standard driving test level. In my view, all ADI’s should understand that they are licenced to teach that lowest level of competence for driving on the road, but also have sufficient knowledge and understanding that they encourage all pupils to go on to an advanced level with the enhanced level of awareness and safety that goes with it.

    But coming back to your original point about changing from a rule-based teaching approach, I think you are absolutely right. What is necessary is, not to frighten them but, by the time they reach test standard, that they have a clear understanding of where and why they might be vulnerable to crashes and the value of space and time. That also brings us back to threat perception. In that broad context, I wonder how many ADIs teach 2 seconds ‘minimum’ as a safe following distance and generally work to 3-4 seconds which is where they should be. Anything below two seconds and a driver is certainly crash vulnerable, and below one second they are in suicide mode.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    +1

    In response to Chris, something that I bang on about whenever possible is ‘defensive driving’ which copes with the ‘non-rule adherence’of others. Nigel refers to it as ‘threat perception’… same thing I believe (sorry Nigel if I preempted your response but feel free to expand on it). How do we teach it to the reluctant driver?.. that’s the tricky bit! If the interest is there, keen drivers can learn it as they go along (no pun intended).


    Hugh Jones
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    Nigel: It is to be expected that a learner recieving lessons on how to comply with a plethora of rules and subsequently tested on their ability to comply would go away under the illusion that all or at least the majority of other road users drive according to that same set of rules.

    As experienced drivers we know this is not the case and that the majority of drivers will at any given moment carry out an act that does not comply with said rules, we cannot change this as long as humans are in control of vehicles.

    So the basis of new driver instruction should still be to understand the rules and to abide by them but to consider how they can cope at any given moment with another road user breaking a rule ie doing something unexpected.

    Some believe this falls under so called advanced driving/riding but at basic level instilling into a learner that they should treat another road user at a give way as a road user at a ‘might not give way’ is well within the ability of any learner.

    The coping strategy would be to consider what to do or what can be done in preperation for the other road user failing to give way.


    Chris Harrison, bristol
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    +1

    Chris; would you kindly clarify this statement please: ‘What is required is a change in the way we teach road use, replacing the rules based system ensuring learners understand and consider that others will not comply along with strategies for coping with it when it occurs’.

    I understand the first bit; that you suggest teaching should be changed from a rules based system (and I would agree with that) but, am afraid you lost me on the second part.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    Of course riders and drivers are unaware of the issue as its simply not taught as part of the learning process and I doubt adding it to a small part of the theory test will change that, how many drivers can recall any significant amount of the HC?

    What is required is a change in the way we teach road use, replacing the rules based system ensuring learners understand and consider that others will not comply along with strategies for coping with it when it occurs.


    Chris Harrison, bristol
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    +1

    Briefly, (M.Worthington), (because at this moment I haven’t got the time to check exactly what is in the current RC) it’s a matter of the lesser of two evils. Of course, you are quite right (to paraphrase) that things go wrong all the time; you never know where the next horror is going to come from but, the properly trained driver looks, sees and anticipates where these things might happen and assesses all facts impartially, that is, without bias. That’s the difficult bit and where the right training comes in. Most drivers have some sort of bias in their thinking and that affects their decision making. This can be crucial to safety in an overtaking scenario. If you want my notes on overtaking feel free to ask Nick for my e-mail address. These were checked by police driving instructors, in this case instr;uctors with their advanced instructor’s certificate back in the days when police driving standards were much higher than are generally seen today.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    Unfortunately Nigel things do go wrong and if its going to go wrong then it will. Why then was the Roadcraft manual so ambiguous when it comes to something so extremely dangerous as overtaking. Maybe that’s why so many motorcycle riders get it wrong or fail to get it right. I agree but reluctantly, that a police officer with a lot of discipline and training should if the need arise overtake from a distance that is not quite the safe distance stopping behind, but why put it in the Manual for all others to be trained (by police officers) and proceed in the same way.

    Since its first publications many years ago the Police Manual has had a number of revisions, some of which have removed some items that may have been considered unsuitable to teach to others, that being normal members of the public. To my mind this advocating of a closer overtaking position is not just tailgating but an extremely dangerous place to be advised to in the first place, and further a more dangerous one to initiate an overtake from.

    No matter how you place the blame on the rider if it wasn’t in the Manual it would not be followed and perhaps some unnecessary overtaking and subsequent collisions would be reduced. If a rider is taught that it is ok to take up this closer position and then into an overtake by following the advice in the Manual then he is not required to use restraint as he is apparently doing nothing wrong. The rider should never have been advised to place himself in that insidious position in the first place.

    The Roadcraft Manual does say that under no circumstances should safety be sacrificed for the sake of any expediency and this is just that case. The basic principals are being ignored and at a cost to ordinary riders.


    M.Worthington
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    Can’t disagree with your comment, Melissa, but just to clarify, the principles of overtaking are the same whether bikes, cars or whatever. But, dovetailing your comment it was Pat Forbes, a Sergent Instructor on the Advanced Wing at Hendon who, when asked what the temperamental makeup is of a good driver said, ‘Primarily self-discipline and restraint’, traits which are so little seen nowadays but which would often make the roads that much safer.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    All the comments here on overtaking are about the bike doing the action no?!?!
    What about all the car drivers that seem to think it’s incessant to overtake a bike doing the limit. such a dangerous act that clearly stems from arrogance and entitlement..NOT SAFETY


    Melissa, London
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    Replying to M. Worthington’s comment (for your gender is not known) the problem is the deliberate ambiguity in Roadcraft regarding overtaking. The reason is that it now (1994 edition onwards) has to be all things to all people and that the correct way of overtaking, as (certainly was) taught at Police Driving Schools is not one to put loosely into the hands of the untrained members of the public. What is taught there evolves in stages and once fully developed is by far the safest way of overtaking. However, wrongly applied that technique is potentially more dangerous than making a commitment left of the line, which puts the overtaker effectively behind the target vehicle and places him or her in a weaker position for a go, no-go decision. Roadcraft enables both interpretations to be made. Properly set up an overtake is a straight-line operation back to the nearside with, if necessary, full acceleration applied in total safety. So the point of commitment is not actually behind the target vehicle, which is a position of weakness, for both safety and also view. In my view it is quite fair to say that most members of the general public have no idea how to properly set up and execute an overtake in complete safety; they will not have had the training for both the technique and also the mindset.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    +1

    It’s the close position that I don’t like as it’s an insidious position but it’s a recommended position in the Roadcraft manual. Many motorcyclists take up this position because…..one. they are told that it takes less time in the overtake and therefore is less dangerous, and second it’s recommended in times of heavier traffic by another training body… to be no less than the Thinking Distance is how they put it, and that to give the correct full distance is in some way not making best use of valuable free space. So much for tailgating then? In the overtake they fail to be told of the increased danger or in the last case they are actually told that the closer Thinking distance position is dangerous but still they are encouraged to do it anyway. It’s no wonder we get so many rear end collisions if people are trained to it.


    M.Worthington
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    +1

    I would also go with Bob’s comment about the way most motorcyclists (well it’s not unique to motorcyclists) set up for an overtake and execute it. I think what Bob is talking about i.e from a close position behind a vehicle, results in what I call a sling-shot overtake. That is that the overtake is effectively executed as a swing out to the right, effectively looping around the target vehicle and then swinging back to the left afterwards. It fills me with horror each time I see this or, any variants of it.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    +1

    Sandy, whilst I understand your sentiments I have to go with Bob to some extent. I have also been an advanced biker and done instruction, though not at basic test level. I have had an in depth interest in road safety since the 1970s.

    Looking at the way the average biker rides, then I believe that most of them are more crash vulnerable than they realise. And those that have the culture of black, for example, and don’t even have their headlights on, even more so.

    Whilst wearing high viz and having headlights on may not guarantee that others will see you, not having them on is merely enhancing the possibility that they may not. Even on bikes I still go back to Lord Montague’s book, The Art of Driving a Motor Car, where he says ‘it is your duty, not the other man’s to avoid danger’. And yes, 25% of all crashes (as you probably know) occur within 25 yards of brows, bends and junctions and I have to say that most road users (bikes, cars, lorries, cycles, whatever) seem blissfully unaware of this fact, which is probably one reason why so many crashes happen at these locations.

    I don’t think it is ‘bikers are at fault’, per se, but more that because they are more vulnerable they need to be more aware of where the likely dangers are. I call it ‘threat perception’. And, in my view, where threat perception goes up, the risk profile comes down proportionately. And where the risk profile goes down the safety factor goes up. No 100% rule for anything, of course, but I reckon, from my experience and doing a lot of advanced teaching, that is a pretty sound formula. So anyone not aware of the higher risk at junctions, for example, is – in my view – just asking for trouble before they start.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    +3

    As a Motorcycle Instructor (Both test & advance level) for over 35 years, and a former Road Safety Officer, I can assure you that any training of a rider that doesn’t make them aware from the off about ‘other road user awareness’ , is absolutely preposterous! This would be tantamount to signing their death warrant.

    First thing you teach is other road users don’t or won’t see you? You need to make yourself visible. By position on the road, by wearing Hi-Viz clothing, & headlight on dip. Believe me when I say THIS IS STILL NO GUARANTEE THAT OTHERS WILL SEE YOU!

    Kindly stop the ‘bikers are at fault’, as again figures still show that the majority of bike / car collisions happen at or near junctions. Almost always in 30 MPH zone. Dozy or blind car / van / truck drivers? Reckless moped or bike riders? Maybe? Tragic outcomes? Nearly always!


    Sandy Allan, Aberdeen
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    +5

    It does not surprise me that in general motorcyclists are not aware of the dangers that they put themselves in whilst riding on our roads. That’s because no one bothers to tell them and its not until they reach the level where they will be accepted on to Advanced riding courses that they may begin to understand just how vulnerable they are and just how much their lives are in their hands when it comes to understanding road safety issues and what might be considered defensive riding techniques. Even then without a good instructor many will only learn how to take bends faster and how to overtake other vehicles using the tailgating technique.


    R. Craven
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    --6