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DSA Report on Incidents on Bike Training Courses – as bad as it seems?

The first report based on the new incident reporting precedure required by the DSA when there are accidents on motorcycle training courses has been published.

The reporting period was the 12 months from 1 October 2011 to 30 September 2012 and 149 incidents were reported incidents during this time. The conclusions the DSA have drawn from the figures sound a bit alarming:

* 40% of all incidents happened during CBT training on road * there were 27 serious incidents – 52% of which involved females * a third of all incidents happened between 1pm and 3pm * 65% of incidents happened where there was a training ratio of 2:1 * 35% of incidents happened where the trainee was following the trainer * a disproportionate number of females were involved in incidents

Unfortunately, the way the results are presented makes it difficult to draw proper conclusions. The DSA presumably have the raw data but haven’t seen fit to give the full details and have combined certain results; for example, though incidents are broken down by:

– size of machine (125 or smaller, DAS bike) – activity (Module One testing, ATB on-road and off-road training for the bike test, CBT on- and off-road)

they haven’t presented the rest of the information in the same way, which makes comparisons and conclusions difficult. Nevertheless, the DSA have used these figures above to make the statements above.

So let’s try to interpret them based on what we know about CBT and post-CBT training.

The first point I would make is that the DSA haven’t highlighted the fact that 14 of the incidents took place on a DSA site – presumably during training for Module One of the practical motorcycle test. That’s just under 10% of the total. By contrast 15 incidents happened at a school’s training site, where trainees would be either getting used to the DAS bike or practicing Module One style exercises on a 125 or a DAS machine. I’m not sure what conclusions can be reliably drawn because we don’t know how many trainees actually have access to the DSA’s sites to practice for Module One, but I would guess that it’s relatively few. That in turn would imply that, for whatever reason, the incident rate at DSA sites is higher than at the ATBs’ own sites!

Of the 149 incidents, 59 or 40% happened when conducting the CBT road ride. It’s not entirely a surprise that this is a time of highest risk as the trainees involved are taking their first ride on a motorcycle in traffic, and the road is an uncontrolled environment where safety cannot be structured in the same way as it is during off-road training. 13% of incidents also happened during the CBT off-road session, so around 53% of all incidents happen during CBT.

Once CBT is completed and riders are training for the practical test, it seems around 25% of incidents of off- and on-road incidents happen on 125 machines (or smaller – mopeds aren’t differentiated in the figures) and around 50% on DAS bikes. The missing 25% is ‘unknown’. But without knowing the split of 125 / DAS bikes actually on test, we can’t draw any conclusions.

What sense can we make of the fact that 1/3rd of all incidents happened between 1pm and 3pm? Well, firstly it’s a bit misleading just to cherry-pick that time slot. Slightly more than 25% happened after 3pm too. Without knowing which happened on CBT and which happened during practical test training, it’s hard to say what’s happening but but given what we know about 40% of accidents happening during the CBT road ride, that accounts for a significant proportion of those reported incidents. ‘Low risk’ hours fall before 11am (where the CBT trainee is being inducted onto the course, shown protective clothing and basic maintenance routines) and between 12 and 1 (when many trainers and trainees are having lunch). With fully 15% of incidents occuring after 4pm, I’d be asking if that doesn’t suggest that trainees are getting tired, and some thought needs to be given to reducing the length of the day – I’ve said for a long time that a one day CBT is too much for many people, and so are post-CBT courses that don’t finish till 5pm or later.

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Neither am I sure what the DSA are implying by highlighting the fact that 65% of incidents happen when the training ratio is 2:1. In carrying out thousands of CBTs and DAS courses, I can count the number of times I ran a 1:1 ratio on my fingers, so I think it would be better to ask why 35% of the accidents happened when the trainee had the trainer’s full attention. For example, could they be the difficult trainees? Or inexperienced instructors given an ‘easy’ course? What’s the incident rate on 125 courses, where there is no 2:1 training limit and some schools run 4:1 ratios?

Similarly if we don’t know how many trainers operate with one trainee ahead and one behind, versus both ahead or both behind, there’s nothing useful to be gleaned from the statement that 35% of incidents happened behind the instructor.

What is rather worrying and something the DSA did pick up on, is that a disproportionate number of females were involved in incidents resulting in injury. The actual figures are:

Female – serious 14 minor 49 Male – serious 13 minor 69

The DSA say that: “to put the incident numbers involving females into perspective over 50,000 males took a motorcycle test in the reporting period compared to around 5,000 females.”

That means women are almost 10 times more likely to crash on a basic course than men, though once again we need to know the context. Is it perhaps that they find the bigger DAS bikes more awkward to handle either by virtue of the machine’s physical size or their relative lack of strength? Or is it an issue with the instruction they receive? Another useful figure we don’t get is the age of the trainees concerned.

The figures also need to be put into context with the full number of CBTs and training courses conducted. Unfortunately, the DSA haven’t provided that useful piece of information either in the summary or the PDF report on which the summary is based.

I think we can make the reasonable assumption that the total number of CBTs carried out in the reporting period is in excess of 55,000. That’s the number of tests taken in the same period, and although some riders will have taken CBT from outside the period, it’s likely to be compensated for by the number of riders who’ve taken CBT in the period but not the full test. There will also be an unknown number of riders who are ‘professional learners’ who have simply refreshed their existing CBT and a similar unknown number of novices who start CBT and either fail to complete it or give up at the end of the course.

So, 79 incidents in 55,000 CBTs equals an incident rate of slightly less than 0.15%.

Not every rider taking a test on a 125 will have taken training sho if we make a guess that 15,000 riders on 125s have not taken a formal training course, then the remaining 70 incidents that occur on post-CBT training gives an incident rate of 70 / 40,000 = 0.17%.

I’d be interested to know what the collision rate for learners in cars is.

The report is here with a link to the full PDF, though it throws little more light on the subject: http://content.govdelivery.com/bulletins/gd/UKDSA-6223de?reqfrom=share

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