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As the bike test gets tougher, is the car test getting easier?

Module One has been with us for well over a year now, and the debate continues over whether it has any real application once the rider is out on the road.

The problem with setting the exercises round a forest of cones and making such a big thing of the speed trap is that riders who’ve passed the test are clearly losing sight of the fact that the skills themselves ARE important; it’s simply fuel to the kind of thinking that leads to experienced riders saying to new riders (entirely wrongly, in my opinion): “forget what you learned to pass the test, now you really learned to ride”.

However, it’s undoubtedly made the whole performance of getting a motorcycle licence tougher.

Motorcyclists already have to gain a CBT, even if they never intend to ride on L plates, a course which costs money because CBT can only be gained with a qualified instructor and an “approved training body”, a bike school with a not insignificant chunk of real estate on which to perform the off-road manoeuvres.

This is a step car drivers don’t have to take – they can legally stick L plates on any car and the first time they sit behind the wheel, they can drive out on the public roads.

Motorcyclists who want access to bigger bikes are also obliged to continue their training with an approved school and qualified instructors.

By contrast, there is no obligation for the learner car driver to take any formal training, at any stage. So long as they sit with a supervising licence holder, themselves with a minimum of experience as a qualified driver, they can drive anywhere they like, excepting motorways.

After completing the theory test, both two- and four-wheeled learners can now put themselves forward for the DSA’s test of driver competence in the Practical Test.

Except that motorcyclists have to take the afore-mentioned Module One off-road test to prove they are safe to head out on the road, something that the car candidate does not have to do; they just turn up at the test centre, the examiner sits in the passenger seat and off they go.

Compared with the slalom, figure of eight, controlled corner and speed-trapped swerve which are just some of the Module One exercises, car candidates only have to perform two manouvres on the car test; from 4 October they will have to make a turn in the road (often referred to as the three point turn), and one of either a reverse around a corner or a reverse park.

I was absolutely astonished to see from the latest update on the DSA website that the Emergency Stop is not a “must do”; to quote the relevant section: “you may also be asked to carry out an emergency stop exercise”.

I’m sure that the emergency stop used to be a “must do” when I took the car test – even in an era when most cars have anti-lock brakes and braking skills are reduced to stamping on the pedal as quickly as possible, I find it hard to believe that a new driver could never have actually practiced and performed an e-stop and yet have a full licence.

Somehow, the skills required to pass the respective tests don’t seem balanced.

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