Motorcycle Test Reported To Be In Crisis

December 9, 2010

Now don’t get me wrong, I know there are fewer people taking their bike test since the new one was bought out but I do have issues with the way this is being reported.  Here is the article as it’s being reported online on the Motorcycle News website.

A crisis hitting the number of people taking the motorcycle test is even deeper than previously feared, latest figures show.

Eighteen months after a new Europe-wide test was introduced, the number of people taking it was still barely half the former level.

When bookings dropped drastically following the changeover last year, the Driving Standards Agency said it was temporary and demand would “settle at usual levels again in 2010/11”.

But new DSA figures point to a long-term decline.

In the 16 months leading up to the introduction of the new exam in April 2009, 130,498 people took the old test, a rate of 8156 a month.

But in the 18 months following the changeover, only 73,508 people completed the new test, 4083 a month and almost half the earlier rate.

The Government is conducting a review of the test, which was originally intended to reach conclusions by autumn.

Roads minister Mike Penning said: “The review of the motorcycle test is a top priority for me because I want to make sure that we have a test which prepares bikers properly for the road.

“We have been working with the motorcycle training industry and others to make sure that we are taking all views into account and we will report on findings as soon as possible.”

My problem is in the way these figures are being presented (sorry MCN).

As a lot of you know, the new test was originally scheduled to start in September 2008 but, because of bungling incompetance, so few of the new test centres were ready for use, the implementation of the test was put back about 6 months.  In the lead up to September 2008 thousands upon thousands of people decided to get their bike licence under the old test regime and so booked lessons and their test.  I should know,  I was one of them!!!  I took one look at the new test and thought “S*d that!!!”

During 2008, riding schools all over the country were inundated with trainees learning to ride, which definately skews the figures somewhat, as in a normal riding year fewer people would be taking their test.  Then the test was put back 6 months so that more of the new test centres could be made ready, and those who thought they had missed the original deadline were given a life line and once again the riding schools were booked solid, even though it was winter

According to the DSA  some 130,498 people took their test in the 18 months leading up to the change of test.  I’m pretty damn certain a sizeable number of those were riders who wanted to take the old style test and not the new one.

Now, since the new test started 18 months ago the DSA say that just 73,508 people have taken it, a drop of almost 50% on the previous figures.

BUT…… Seeing as the figures from September 2007 until April 2009 are hardly indicative of the number of people taking their bike test during a ‘normal’ 16 month period, I don’t see how they can be reliably compared with those from May 2009 up until late 2010.

Unless of course you’re attempting to make things look worse than they are 😉


U-Turn Over VASCAR Decision?

February 8, 2009

The police in Scotland announced on the 5th February that they were reversing the decision, announced just one day earlier, advising officers to stop using the VASCAR speed detection system.  Apparently Home Office scientists have confirmed that the devices are in fact reliable. 

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPoS) have said,

They had now received advice from the Home Office Scientific Development Branch that there was no possibility of interference when guidelines were followed by officers.
Acpos said that the equipment had been tested and found to operate properly under the appropriate guidelines.

Now forgive me for pointing this out, but what happens when they are operated under ‘inappropriate’ conditions?  Does this mean that there is still an issue with the devices?

Apparently the Home Office has advised the following,

Despite the all-clear being given, the Home Office said officers should not use radios or mobile phones while using the device.

Now to me, this suggests there may still be some kind of an issue with the devices when used at the same time as radios and mobile phones!  Why say don’t use your mobile phone or radio if there is absolutely no reason for concern about the validity of speeding convictions.

In section 5 of the Association of Chief Police Officers Traffic Committee Enforcement Technology National Guidance Manual (the how to do it book) it says,

It is impossible to obtain complete immunity from radio interference.

As well as,

It is not possible to lay down a strict criteria for safe operating distances from transmitters. The strength of the interference depends on several factors, such as transmitter frequency, type of aerial and modulation system.

Now, surely this must throw some small measure of doubt on speeding convictions obtained using these devices.  What about all the people convicted before this all came to light and the Home Office ‘guaranteed’ their accuracy? 

I don’t know, maybe the authorities are just trying to head off loads of claims for falsely obtained convictions!

Previous entries on the same subject
VASCAR May Suffer From Interference.
Faulty Speed Cameras Could Wipe Out Speeding Convictions

Police’s U-turn over VASCAR speed detectors
Acpos does U-turn over use of speed detectors by Scots police forces
Police speed detectors ‘reliable’
In use for 30 years, but are speed units accurate?

VASCAR May Suffer From Interference.

February 7, 2009

VASCARFurther to my post on 5th February about the reliability of hand held speed cameras, I came across another news article today which casts doubt on the accuracy of the VASCAR speed detection systems.

The VASCAR units are still regularly used both in the UK and the USA, although some places now use the newer Radar and Laser Speed Guns. 

Apparently police chiefs in Scotland have been told not to issue speeding tickets if the evidence for speeding was obtained from one of the VASCAR units.  It has come to light that there are issues with both the reliability and accuracy of the units due to interference!  There is also doubt being cast on the reliability of the Provida and Police Pilot speed detection systems. 

The VASCAR, Vehicle Average Speed Computer and Recorder, estimates the speed of vehicles by working out how long the vehicle takes to travel a given distance.  The operator of the machine flips a switch when the vehicle goes past a given point and then again when they pass a second point.  The machine calculates the speed and it is displayed on a readout.

The device, frequently used in the UK has never needed Home Office Approval or accuracy testing, even though accuracy seems to depend on the operators skill when using the machine.  The manufacturers insist that accuracy is maintained when the ‘quartz crystal’ performs a self test establishing that it is indeed accurate when calculating the speed of vehicles

Unfortunately it appears that these machines may be at risk of interference from  Airwave Radios, used by the police, and GSM phones!  This came to light when UK officials were trying to integrate the systems with the new ANPR systems, (Automated Number Plate Recognition) and the new digital radios.

These officials already knew a previous test revealed that interference was recorded on the VASACR machine when a mobile phone or radio was used within six and a half feet of it.

As early as August 2008 the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary were advised by memo NOT to use the TLED, (Traffic Law Enforcement Devices) within any vehicle where an Airwave Radio or GSM phone was switched on.  If the ‘transmit inhibit’ system was enabled it was ok to use the TLED.  They advised that failure to operate the TLED in this manner may compromise prosecutions bought against motorists.

Until such times as the matter has been fully investigated police officers are advised to use alternative equipment to detect whether road users are speeding. 

The lawyers in Scotland are now probably rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of possibly overturning thousands of previous speeding convictions and obtaining refunds for convicted motorists.  And I am sure the same will soon be happening anywhere else these devices are still in use!

Road traffic solicitors are advising that people who have been convicted using one of the VASCAR devices may want to seek the advice of a specialist solicitor and look into the possibility of lodging an appeal.  This may result in all cases going back as far as 2005, when the police introduced the Airwave Radio, being reviewed.

They are also advising that if you have a prosecution pending you should enter a not guilty plea and have the reliability of the VASCAR device examined.

Take a look at these other posts on the subject of speeding:
U-Turn Over VASCAR Decision?
Faulty cameras could wipe out speeding convictions

Source Article: Speed trap device may be faulty, say police