I’m putting this out as a “conversation starter” to quote a well-known social media platform.
My job, whilst by its nature means dealing with the nastiness which is the aftermath of motorcycle accidents, has the massive advantage of enabling me to meet amazing motorcyclists. I am constantly humbled by the determination of injured ‘bikers to get back out there on two wheels, and strive to make that happen for them.
One such very young rider was badly injured in an accident involving a car, I do not and will not go into the details but suffice to say that the car driver was rash and foolhardy with no thought for those around him, and certainly no use of mirrors or shoulder check before pulling a fast manoeuvre.
My client can no longer do work as a motorcycle mechanic, because of the injuries sustained. Again, one of my principal tasks is to get the injured person back to a whole life, inasmuch as is possible. I wanted to know if we could get funding from the driver’s insurers, so that we could sort out some retraining for another career within the injured person’s physical capabilities.
I asked the client if she had any thoughts about what she’d like to do in the future. Instantly she replied that she would like to become a driving instructor. In her words, even if she only taught one new driver at a time to be ‘bike aware, that would be one less motorcyclist at risk. She was incredibly passionate about her plan to educate new car drivers about the vulnerability of powered two wheel users.
This set me thinking about two things. Firstly, the inequality between the statutory car driving test and the hoops of fire that a young motorcyclist has to go through to get out on the road legally.
To drive a car, aged 17, pass a theory test then a practical test. One page on the Gov.uk official website. Once you’ve passed, off you go, any car you like, any capacity, size, horsepower.
To ride a motorcycle? Well, it depends on so many factors that it is a minefield (which is an issue in itself), but every rider wanting to get a full licence must do four tests, three practical and one theory. This seems disproportionate to me, and a cynical person might conclude that the powers that be were trying to discourage youngsters from taking to two wheels.
My second thought was about the amount of motorcycle awareness that is taught to learner car drivers. Coincidentally, I also considered methods of teaching in other countries. The “Dutch reach” is taught across Europe to instil an automatic gesture on the part of the driver to open the door by reaching across, thus checking over the shoulder. Here in the UK our moving-off mantra is “mirror, signal, manoeuvre”, but in Denmark it is “mirror, shoulder, signal, manoeuvre” thus adding an extra check into the routine. Neither of these would cost anything to include as standard in the driving test syllabus.
Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association, recently reported in the Driving Instructor magazine that the Dutch Reach is due to be included in the next update to the Highway Code. MAG reported in June 2019 that the DVSA announced an additional set of computer-generated videos to be shown to learner drivers, drawing attention to the presence of motorcycles.
Whilst these are definitely steps in the right direction, I urge MAG members to keep the pressure on and spread the word at every opportunity. Motorcycle Action Group’s principle raison d’etre is to educate, not legislate, but I wonder whether there is a campaign to be had to legislate to educate – in other words to boost the learner driver’s syllabus to include much more awareness of powered two wheelers. In these days of increasing congestion and emission reduction targets, not to mention vehicle running costs, motorcycles are more and more attractive to commuters.
In an absolute dream world, I’d insist that every potential car driver take a pillion ride so that they were able to experience life on a powered two wheeler, but I know that this is wishing for the moon on a stick. Maybe a virtual reality headset experience?
So, if you could do one thing to add to the learner driver’s syllabus to raise our profile and improve the safety of the powered two wheelers out there, what would it be? Answers on a postcard…
Originally posted in Motorcycle Action Group MAG Magazine
The writer, Liz Hoskins, is a solicitor and Accredited Senior Litigator with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. She rides a Triumph Bonneville America and a 1995 Ducati Monster. SorryMate is a firm of solicitors working exclusively to help ‘bikers get the compensation they deserve after an accident.