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Licence rules may be why ‘very few’ young riders take test, government admits

EU staged licence regime may be reason so many young riders are long-term learners

EU RULES limiting young riders to smaller motorcycles may be the reason ‘very few’ now bother to take the test, the government has admitted.  

Instead learners see the one-day Compulsory Basic Training course as the only qualification they need to be ‘fully competent’ to ride on the road, according to the Department for Transport and Driver Standards Agency.  

The number of under-19s taking a motorcycle test fell by 90% after new rules were introduced, from 6,788 one year to 599 the next.

The DSA has previously denied the drop is a result of the rules themselves, which effectively removed an incentive for under-19s to take a test by limiting them to 125cc whether they passed or not. Instead the DSA has blamed the fall on people rushing to get their test in before the changes, leading to a natural drop in numbers afterwards.

But yesterday the DfT and DSA admitted ‘very few’ young riders go on to take a test after doing CBT, and it ‘may be an unintended consequence’ of the new licence rules.

The admission was contained in a consultation paper on rider training.

Announcing the consultation, transport minister Claire Perry said it was ‘shocking’ that 19% of motorcycle casualties involved riders under 20.

The consultation proposes changes to CBT to ensure learners are up to scratch.

It says: ‘We acknowledge that this may require a culture shift. The public generally view CBT as a one-day course and many trainers arrange their business model to deliver CBT on that basis. Trainees need to move away from the idea that simply completing a day’s course will automatically mean that they are fully competent to ride a moped or small motorcycle unaccompanied. This is particularly relevant for young riders, very few of whom go on to take a motorcycle test, a situation that may be an unintended consequence of the 3rd Directive which limits the size and power of machines that younger riders can ride.’

All learners must complete a one-day CBT course before riding a bike up to 125cc on the road with L-plates and a provisional licence.

Under the old rules, riders aged 17-18 could then gain access to a machine up to 33hp by taking a test, and after two years they automatically qualified to ride any bike. Alternatively, learners who started riding aged 21 or over could take the single Direct Access test for any machine.  

Since the beginning of 2013, under-19s can take a test but it will only earn them a full licence for a 125 – which they are already allowed to ride anyway. On turning 19 they face another full test for a machine up to 47hp. Only after another two years, aged 21, can they ride whatever they want, by passing yet another test. To take the Direct Access route, learners must now be 24.

Visordown revealed last year that motorcycle tests had fallen by a quarter following the new rules. At the time, the Driving Standards Agency said:  ‘This reflects the continuing effects of the rush to pass the practical test before new restrictions on young motorcyclists were introduced in January 2013.’

Thanks to Rogerborg for highlighting the DfT admission in a comment on an earlier story.

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