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The Benefits of Post Test Training - Advanced Riding

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Coroner Percy Morrison, referring to the tragic death of pedestrian Bridget Driscoll on 17 August, 1896, hoped that 'such a thing should never happen again.'

But it did.

Henry Lindfield became the first to die behind the wheel just 18 months later.

Can you imagine the outrage it would cause in this day and age if ten jumbo jets fell from the sky every day? Something would be done immediately - aircraft grounded, pilots tested and retested until the cause of this terrible loss of life was eradicated. Although here in the UK (according to government statistics) road traffic fatalities have almost halved since the beginning of the millennium, there are still, on average, around 4,000 people killed on the roads worldwide every day.

Mrs Driscoll happened to be the first UK1 casualty, hit by a car doing an astonishing 4 mph. The driver was new to motoring, no training or licence required, and apparently unsure of which side of the road to be on. His victim was bemused as the strange vehicle bore down on her, the driver zigzagging, shouting to clear the way and ringing his bell to no avail.

Modern vehicles now adhere to strict safety regulations. Airbags and crumple zones are designed in from the drawing board stage. Better brakes and steering, on board computers and cameras assist in improving safety. Better road surfaces, lighting, warning signs, speed restrictions on accident black spots and the ever present billboard signs reminding us to buckle up, take a break, don't use mobile phones and leave a bigger gap are all created in the hope of reducing the number of fatalities on our roads.

But what about the human factor?

Government legislation has made basic training compulsory for those wishing to ride a small motorcycle or scooter and the driving tests for cars and bikes are reportedly getting tougher, but what happens after the learner plates are discarded and riders/drivers are let loose on the highways and byways of the world?

That piece of paper that proclaims you have passed your test is the end of training for the majority of road users.

Why spend time, money and the effort to obtain post test training? Surely the best way to gain experience is to just do it, learn from our mistakes and let test centres and highway codes be a thing best forgotten: a necessary evil endured just to obtain a full licence?

Why Bother with Advanced Training?

Well firstly any advanced training will benefit your vehicle - less wear and tear and obviously less chance of a prang2.

Secondly, although not cheap, advanced training will eventually benefit your pocket. Apart from treating your car/bike better, you will get better fuel economy. Also some insurance companies offer a discount for advanced qualifications (it is important to check with your insurers exactly which advanced scheme, if any, they recognise). Increased awareness on the road may also see a decrease in speeding tickets and fines for some!

Finally and most importantly, any further training will make you a better driver/rider, increase your observational skills and give you more understanding of how to anticipate and avoid hazards. If you can anticipate and avoid, you may just save somebody's life or that life may be your own!

The biggest advantage of advanced training is it gives the motorist more time. Sounds strange? Recognise a hazard developing, more time to avoid it. Give yourself a better view or position on the road, more time to anticipate what's coming. Be in the right gear at the right speed, more time to brake or manoeuvre. You'll also enjoy the journey more and be a lot less stressed by other road users and situations.

Everyone thinks they are a good driver, everyone can offer hints and tips to fledgling road users, and these pieces of wisdom can vary massively from the useful and mostly harmless to the outdated and downright dangerous. The difficulty comes in choosing which advice to follow.

Any advanced training should be provided from an instructor who is qualified to teach his or her field of motoring expertise. Check out those qualifications carefully before putting your hand in your pocket.

Avoid the 'expert' down at the local - just because they drive taxis or delivery vans for a living or own a fast car and watch Top Gear - that does not make them good, safe drivers.

Sadly those of us on two wheels are even more at risk.

The same year Mrs Driscoll died, over the Atlantic in Boston inventor Sylvester Roper, then in his 70s, was attempting to get his velocipede over the 40 mph mark. The bike's engineering just wasn't up to these unheard of speeds - the rider couldn't control the resulting front wheel wobble. Sadly the need for speed marked 1896 as the first recorded motorcycle fatality.

Bikers beware, if car drivers often offer bad advice, motorcyclists are even worse!

Many young riders are drawn to the gaggle of motorcyclists who meet at the weekends up and down the country, and many fall foul of advice handed out by riders who have very little experience but 'look the part'. For example, anyone who watches motorcycle racing has heard of counter-steering but very, very few can explain, demonstrate and teach it safely.

There are three main groups of motorcyclists statistically more at risk of being involved in an accident:

  1. The perennial learner - those who never take a test or lessons and are happy to re-sit Compulsory Basic Training every two years, never progress from the absolute basics and ride on L plates.

  2. Born-again bikers - those coming back to two wheels after a long period and expecting a modern bike to perform and handle like they did 20 or 30 years ago. They also expect themselves to perform like they did back then too!

  3. Sports bike riders in their mid-20s - adrenalin junkies and fast bikes do not usually mix well on public roads. If it's high speeds you're after, book a Track Day!

If you find yourself in a conversation that is centred around pulling wheelies, 'getting your knee down' or simply how to go faster - walk away!

Good road skills are not all about speed, although with proper training you will be more relaxed, better equipped and more aware. These qualities will actually make you drive more efficiently and make better progress purely because of the way you now see the road, not how much throttle or accelerator you use.

In addition to professional instruction, there are often courses run by groups who offer structured rides over a period of time where your riding skills will be assessed and critiqued and advanced techniques will be demonstrated.

Look for your local Advanced Motorcycle Club or Organisation. Open road safety days run by councils often have advanced emergency services motorcyclists who can offer advice and point you in the right direction if you decide to invest in training.

Most riding schools will offer discounted courses for small groups - two or three riders per instructor - any more and you just will not get the personal attention you are paying for. It is very hard to ride, instruct and keep an eye on 12 bikes at once!

Check which Advanced qualification you will be hoping to gain and whether this entails a final test ride and/or an additional fee. Most courses on offer are two or three days, on road and in the classroom3, with an examiner taking you out for your final ride.

Some courses combine with a touring break, instruction as you ride, and then meeting up with an external examiner on your route. Some companies even offer European Tours that fit several days of Advanced Training into your biking holiday!

Your instructor should take you on an initial assessment ride, give you a debriefing and then will be able to tell you what kind of advanced level you should be aiming for4. You may wish to aim high and join the ranks of RoSPA Gold riders or just take a few lessons, content in knowing you're a better rider - the choice is yours.

Don't be put off by the thought of training being limited to middle-aged men on expensive touring bikes. A good riding school will offer bespoke courses to cover any bike and rider, from custom Choppers to vintage Lambrettas!

There are also courses for those not used to travelling with a pillion passenger or luggage. Winter, night-time and motorway riding lessons are available too.

Courses are fun as well as instructional, but if you're not used to spending a lot of time in the saddle or become tired, please tell your instructor. The courses require high levels of concentration for your safety and that of other road users.

That said, you will be astonished at how quickly your riding improves and amazed at how much more aware you are! Accidents may still happen but now you will have the skills and confidence to be much more likely to avoid them.

Enjoy your journey and never stop learning!

1Scientist Mary Ward was reportedly killed as a car passenger in Ireland as far back as 1869.2A slight automotive collision resulting in damage, but usually no injuries involved.3Courses that are based on the Police systems of car and motorcycle control often have off road elements explaining the principles of Roadcraft in detail.4Courses and qualifications range from Improved Rider and Pass Plus courses to RoSPA (RoADAR) and DIA graded awards. IAM and Enhanced Riding all fall within the Advanced or Post Test training category.

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