According to Brake, the road safety charity, one in five drivers crash within a year of passing their test. They also say that over 1,500 young drivers are seriously injured, or worse, on UK roads every year. So what can be done about it? Well it’s difficult to argue that the driving test isn’t fit for purpose, since it’s more involved now than it’s ever been. And cars themselves tend to be a lot safer, these days. So really, one of the only things to tackle is the drivers themselves. We all know that motorcyclists make the best car drivers, so perhaps there’d be some positive results if new drivers were made to spend some time riding a moped before they could take their test…
Motorcyclists are great drivers
First of all, let me explain briefly why I think motorcyclists make excellent drivers. There’s a more in depth analysis here, if you’re interested. But this is it in a nutshell; spending time as a genuinely vulnerable road user rapidly develops a skillset that all drivers ought to have. Instinctive hazard perception, impeccable spatial awareness and being able to simultaneously focus on your frontal and peripheral vision is what keeps you alive on a motorbike; it’s literally life and death. And when something’s as important as ‘life and death’, even the stupidest people can learn it fairly fast.
Blow off some steam
I can remember when I was a teenager and all my mates started getting cars. Quite a few of them crashed within a month or so of passing their test. I wouldn’t put it down to them being bad drivers; I just think they got a bit excited. And to be fair, it is exciting, being allowed on the road for the first time.
Had my mates spent six months on the road on two wheels, like me (I’d actually spent two years on a bike before I got a car), I’m convinced the novelty of being ‘on the road’ would have worn off. Even if had only worn off enough for them to have calmed down a little bit. Of course they would have gone through the honeymoon period during their six months of moped mayhem. But the chances of them feeling quite so invincible on a bike are very slim. And besides, you’re not going to do a lot of damage to anything, or put anyone in danger, when all you can do is 30mph on your ‘ped; apart from yourself, of course.
On the lookout
When you’ve spent a bit of time riding a motorcycle on the road you develop a certain awareness of other people on bikes. Most motorcyclists, when they’re behind the wheel of a car, are never surprised when a motorcycle appears in their mirror, over their shoulder or in front of them. You get to know where bikes are likely to be, what they are likely to do and how their riders are likely to behave. And if nothing else, that keeps them a lot safer.
A massive part of being a safe driver though, is having good all-round awareness. Being mindful of what’s going on in the 360° around you, and I’m convinced six months on a moped would teach most people that.
Realistically, as fantastic as (I think) my idea is, I don’t think it’ll ever happen. The UK driving test is already difficult and expensive enough as it is. Just think of all the different parts there are to it now (theory, hazard perception, practical); forcing people to ride a ‘ped for six months before they can apply would only act as another barrier. A serious barrier. And I imagine there would be a fair few people that argue the danger that you’d be putting people in by forcing them to ride a moped for six months would far outweigh the danger of being a ‘new driver’, in the first place. They’d probably even be able to find some statistics to help them ‘prove’ their point.
But you won’t change my mind. No. I’m absolutely convinced that the roads would be a safer place if every driver had ‘served their time’ on a moped before being allowed behind the wheel of a car. I’m also convinced it’ll never happen. Oh well. We’ll have to think of something else to keep new drivers safe