The government and the DSA is under increasing pressure to rethink the new motorcycle test after a series of accidents in it’s first few weeks.
On the very first day one young man, in South Yorkshire, suffered a broken arm after crashing while trying to slow in the wet immediately following the new ‘swerve’ manoeuvre, and since then 14 more accidents have been reported. There was one additional, as yet unreported, accident yesterday when a young lady training at my old bike school also fell off doing the same manoeuvre. Luckily she was not hurt but was shaken up and bruised.
Instructors, and bikers who have emailed the BBC, have said that trying to perform such a manoeuvre at 31.2 mph (50 kph), while possibly suffering from test nerves, is dangerous, especially when performed on a wet surface.
While the test would probably be fine when done in the dry, new riders who may be tempted to brake and swerve at the same time are likely to come a cropper when trying to do this in the wet. Bikers are taught very early on in their training that braking when not going in a straight line is a BAD thing to do, and even though the trainees taking their tests are undoubtedly taught the same thing, test nerves may be getting the better of them.
Dexterity Motorcycle Training in Kent tried the test out two years before it was implemented and had this to say about the swerve manoeuvre
The swerve/avoidance test – just simply getting up to the required speed (as on my first run) will catch some out, others will swerve and brake too soon and too hard simultaneously with the front brake and bin it.
Somewhat prophetic words I think, considering what is happening on the tests now.
Jeff Stone of the British Motorcycle Federation had this to say
“There is no real argument with the actual test, but the DSA really do have to take note of ‘real world’ conditions.
“A brake and swerve manoeuvre on a wet road is fraught with danger for even an experienced motorcyclist, so there needs to be a safer option for inclement weather conditions.”
and Paul Turner of the Motorcycle Action Group added
“We don’t mind improvements in the test which will make for better riders, but putting people at risk during the test is ludicrous.”
Expecting novice riders to perform the manoeuvre at the same speed whether it is sunny or chucking it down is going against the instruction we are given as learner riders. All riders are taught to ride according to the prevailing conditions, something which helps us to stay as safe as we can out on the roads. We are taught to slow down in the wet, and increase stopping distances, but the DSA is overturning the training and asking new riders to hammer it coming out of a bend towards the swerve part of the test!
Phil Woolley, 28, of Liverpool, tells how he failed the test after completing the swerve slightly below the required speed. He reckons the size of the test centre makes it difficult to get up to 50 kph without accelerating unsafely. He says
“Do it at a controlled speed and you will almost certainly fail,” he said. “Or you just floor it as hard as you can and there is a good chance you will pass, but also a risk you will come off.”
Boy, am I glad I passed my test in February 2008, before the new test came into force. I wouldn’t want to be tackling the new test.