Road Safety News

Concern over motor cycle 'swerve test'

Tuesday 26th May 2009

A BBC News report  last week claimed that the DSA is under pressure to re-think its new motorcycle test following a series of crashes in the first few weeks of its use.

The report says that some instructors are blaming a new manoeuvre known as the 'swerve test' which they say is dangerous and ill-thought out.

In a statement, the DSA said: "Although the new test is designed to be more challenging, this does not mean it is more dangerous.

"Riders who have trained and practised enough should be perfectly capable of passing. We have had one instructor who has told us that out of 12 of his trainees taking the test in one day, 11 passed.

"There have been reported incidents on less than one per cent of the new module one motorcycle tests conducted so far. The most common mistake seems to be accelerating too fast up to the avoidance exercise and then braking before swerving. Candidates should be building up speed steadily and only applying braking after the bike is upright again following a controlled swerve.

"When we consulted with the motorcycle industry it was agreed that it was important that riders should be able to demonstrate that they could keep the bike under control while doing the avoidance exercise. We will continue to hold meetings with the motorcycle industry, as we have done throughout the consultation process on the new test."

For further information contact Chris Lee at the DSA Press Office.

Click here to see a BBC News video report about the new test.


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"The most common mistake seems to be accelerating too fast up to the avoidance exercise". This frustrates me as I have no option here, my bike is a 125 and the only way I can get up to the required speed is to accelerate for as long as possible up to the swerve and even then it's not guaranteed I'll get to the required speed. I have no option to build up speed gradually as I'll never get there. In real life, I'd never speed up towards a hazard. It's madness.
Jen Sheffield

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

Just failed my Mod 1 for the second time, because I look like a flamingo on ice every time I go for that U turn. Ridiculous. I actually uttered a scream of frustration this time, as I'd been nailing it in training, and just got nervous for no reason. Aaaargh, this is getting expensive, and I'm thinking of quitting which probably stupid. Personally I have no problem with the speed tests. The test centre area is big, and with non slip tarmac there's plenty of room.

What seems ridiculous about this test is that on both occasions I have safely ridden a bike 20 miles each way to the test centre, once in pouring rain, and today avoiding a driver who was keen to take me out on a roundabout.

My feeling is they should do away with majors and minors, just give each exercise a score, and set you a points target to hit.

Did I say I was frustrated? Did I say I screamed. Aaaaaargghhh, I know I can ride.
Toby, Buxton

Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

Having just undergone training and passed my module 1 at the second attempt, I've been really surprised to read some of these comments. I have to say that a lot of the comments sound like sour grapes from candidates who just haven't been able to attain the required standard of riding.

Let's be honest - riding a motorcycle can be very dangerous. The DVSA have a responsibility to ensure that they are sending safe riders out onto the road, who are capable of handling a powerful motorcycle to a required standard.

The collision avoidance, or swerve test, is a staple skill that motorcyclists are likely to require often in order to avoid an object in the road, or perhaps a car which starts to pull out from a junction.

The bottom line as far as I am concerned is that you must be able to demonstrate this skill in the test, or you should not be on the road.
Tim C. Ipswich.

Agree (19) | Disagree (4)

Show me the school in London or anywhere else in DSA control which has off road facilities to train this manoeuvre, as big as on the test centre. The DSA gave my school approval although the school cannot afford the off road area as big as on the test centre. I found out about this only when I failed my test and I asked the school that I want to exercise all exercises at the speed DSA wants and they then explained me how this DSA system works. The DSA built itself big centres without taking in consideration that the schools might not be able to afford the off road areas this big. Try finding an area in London of the size of Football pith and put an expensive tarmac on it and then one day with the instructor jump from £170 to £1700 to cover these costs. DSA does not pay for this. I was doing all exercises perfectly on the training yard but when I went to the test centre the speed was so different I really felt uncomfortable so I failed it once on emergency brake and once the swerve. Both times because of the speed.
Jerry London

Agree (14) | Disagree (10)

Why can't the instructors of the riding schools assess us as capable without having to put ourselves in danger? They won't let us take the test until we are ready. Why the need for this 'formal' test?
Darryl Edgar Birmingham

Agree (10) | Disagree (7)

I passed my Mod 1 test but I must admit the speed and swerve test is just ridiculous and extremely dangerous.
Jimmy James Newcastle upon Tyne

Agree (21) | Disagree (7)

I am a 17 stone man riding a 125 Honda and was fortunate to try the "swerve" out at an actual test centre. I've been learning a few weeks now and have been out on the road 6 times, last time I rode motorcycles was thiry five years ago on a provisional licence. Although I reached the required speed and swerved and braked within the distance, I must admit it was very harrowing to say the least and the speed required should be lessened by 10 km. For a novice learning this procedure would be extremely dangerous if the road was wet and I believe a more competent rider could find this a problem.
w waterman , london

Agree (12) | Disagree (7)

I broke and dislocated my arm and shoulder on this test passed two days later but now have to have arm pinned very dangerous lots of people I hear now have had accidents
anita isle of wight

Agree (6) | Disagree (28)

Second time lucky passing my Mod 1. Fail was on my U-turn which I found the most difficult bit! No problems with the swerve avoidance though (although it was raining heavily which did unnerve me a bit!) I actually found the training for it really useful as it helped me realise what i could do with the bike using just my hips and not steering. Should they axe it? If the ratio of accidents is too high then maybe they should but still train riders to do it.
Holly, Newcastle

Agree (8) | Disagree (1)

This is probably the most relevant part of the test, you will have to do this a lot in real life. Most of the time that you have to do this you wish you were only doing 30 MPH. I passed mod 1 first time despite the fact that the test was stopped for 10 mins because the weather was so wet and windy, I still did the swerve at 59 KPH well above the expected speed.
Jordan, Bristol

Agree (7) | Disagree (6)

Got through mod 1 (admittedly second time), hurrah.

I think from my experience the key is to take the time to practice, either on the test centre itself or on a private space, and work up to the stop and avoidance manoeuvres gently. First time, 15 mph is enough. Just keep building it up, bit by bit, and it's not so hard. It's just horrible if you start at 30 mph and cock it up - so get used to the action, the stopping distances, the layout, and get your confidence up.

And listen to the bike for the speed, in 2d gear it will be screaming away as you come out of the curve and open the throttle up if you've got it right.

By the way, my local testing station has apparently refused to test a couple of people who turned up without what was considered adequate protective clothing (eg in trainers and without gloves). They do appear to be taking examinees' safety to heart.
Ned Ludd

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

Just practised in advance of my test. Emergency stops; fine. Sighting run: fine. Avoidance; up to speed once, and then knocked the cone over.

Okay, I'm not all that experienced, but it seems to me I'm being asked to commit myself to something dangerous - if I rode full speed at a hazard on the road my instructor would bawl me out.

Yes, the countersteering and avoidance manoeuvre needs to be taught, but why not do so in an advanced CBT rather than test people and fail them for 0.5 kph under speed?

In fact, I bet the speed-boys who ride dangerously most of the time will pass the test - it's those of us who generally ride carefully will screw up on this one!

Must be pointed out though that the test is a little more tolerant now, since you get only one point for speeds 48-50 kph, not a fail.
Ned Ludd

Agree (14) | Disagree (7)

Having failed 2 mod 1 for not being able to get my 125 up to 50kph for the swerve test and emergency stop (I am a Larger man!)I am now being forced to do the DAS scheme in order to get a licence. Crazy! and very expensive! It is a dangerous part of the test and should be seriously looked at and changed as people are so concentrating on the speed and not on where they are going.
Mark, London

Agree (18) | Disagree (6)

I failed my module 1 yesterday for only achieving 49kph in the swerve and avoidance discipline. This discipline is an extremely dangerous addition to the bike test. In my case the testing area was wet after a night's rain and I was using my 3.5 years experience of riding to make sure I didn't do anything dangerous. When the examiner failed me he said "You were too cautious in the speed test"!! Err....sorry for being cautious and riding with saftety in mind. This part of the test ought to be re-addressed before a rider or even an examiner become hurt. What legal position would a rider be in should the swerve test result in the rider dropping the bike and hitting the examiner?
Dan, Middlesex

Agree (15) | Disagree (7)

I took and failed my mod 1 bike test today. I did the whole test in text book fashion but only reached 49.6 in the swerve avoidance part of the test. It's sad that I failed the test and there is no room for allowing some leaway for riding safely in a controlled manner. The really sad thing is that I actually passed my motorbike test in 1983 and have been riding daily ever since. However I went to test ride a new motorcycle a few months ago only to be told by the store that I didn't have the a cat A entitlement. After 3 months of trying to reason with the DVLA the bottom line is that I have to retake my test at much expense as they have no record of my ever passing. So after spending 27 years riding a motorcycle daily (never had any form of accident) I was failed for 0.4 kmh in a manoeuvre which is a little dangerous as it takes no consideration of weather conditions,or bike spec ie: I took my test today on a Vespa T5 which is a little wider than the average 125 motorcycle
Stephen, London

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

Thanks for that Roy. There was as you were no doubt aware no critisism intended and it was nice to know where u are coming from. Good to hear you have so many years of motorcycling under your belt.

Most points have been covered I think but I would still make the point. Countersteering has been around and understood perhaps even before the wright brothers made mention of it. However it is a good tool that can be used to assist a motorcyclist to steer a safer route around any oncoming danger.

On the road is a very different space to a level well tarmacadamed and coned training area where the most that can happen is to lay the bike down with little or less risk of injury.

It has to be taught, that is for sure and many will benifit from its instruction. Once again... however it is not the be all and end all but is only part of the arsenal availiable. I am sure that many motorcyclists basically lay the bike down and suffer the lesser consequence rather than hit the object in their way because there is nowhere else to go. The road being full of others hazards. And thereby is the problem. If the road is full where can one swerve to?
Bob Craven, Blackpool

Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

As an addendum to my response to Bob Craven and the his point regarding police training; I recall that California Highway Patrol also teach a similar manoeuvre on their motorcycle training course at the CHP Academy in Yolo County. It is some time since I saw this but I think the rider was required to approach a line of cones at speed, brake to a compulsory lower speed then 'snake' through the cones. The motorcycles used at that time were Kawasaki K1000Ps, a 1000cc, fully equiped, police machine, the weight of which must also have been "massive".

To watch, it was impressive, but then again, California Highway Patrol motorcyclists are inspirational.
Roy Buchanan, Principal Road Safety Officer, London Borough of Sutton

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

Please may I answer Bob Craven's question in his second letter. I am a motorcyclist with 47 years experience. My understanding of the rationale for introducing this manoeuvre is to teach a method of collision avoidance. A rider, braking to avoid a collision and realising there is insufficient distance in which to stop, should consider releasing the brakes and riding round the obstruction. Such action may result in no contact being made with the obstruction. To continue braking hard but in a straight line may, due to lack of distance, result in a collision. However, Bob goes on to make a valid point. It takes a considerable presence of mind to take this kind of action in real-life circumstances but to practice the manoeuvre on an off-road training area could be beneficial in preparing the rider for the occasion when it happens on the road. Bob may like to refer to "Motorcycling Excellence" (published in 1995 by The Motorcycle Safety Foundation) page 88, first column, paragraph 2, entitled "Evasive Manoeuvres". I cannot comment on the reference to current police teaching but I can say that a very similar manoeuvre was taught at the Metropolitan Police Driving School in the late 1960s. Bob's first letter is sublimenally refering to defensive riding which I think any experieinced rider would readily support.
Roy Buchanan, Principal Road Safety Office, LB of Sutton

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

Just one. Does Roy Buchanan ride or has he ever riden a motorcycle? does he know what he is expecting of us riders.

No one in their right mind would want to commit to this manouver. Unless life is at risk. My bike weighs a massive 260 kg and to swerve and brake will take a lot of guts.

Its okay saying in principal that there is no problem, lets all bury our heads in sand or blame the motorcyclist.
Bob Craven, Blackpool

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

I dont think some trainees are being trained in counter steering which at 30 plus mph this is all about.

One cannot steer and brake [or other way round] at the same time. It is not possible to control the bike. First one countersteers one way and then the other and then one brakes. This has not been pointed out at any time what its all about. So it needs to be more widespread and taught to the candidates. Its very easy to do when you know what to do.

However I do think that in wet conditions a greater distance is required.

Why is it that motocyclists have to learn a dangerous practise in order to avoid a car coming at them from a side road. I dont see the police instructing this as one of their proceedures.

We should be training other vehicle drivers to see bikes and riders to be in the correct position in the road relative to other vehicles and intersections.
Bob Craven, Blackpool

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

The new two part test is fine, its all just media hype! I did my module one last week without formal training and just a few months riding on the road getting to grips with my bike.
I'm sure people get accustomed to it soon enough.
Charlie, Berkshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

I have failed my Module 1 test today due to 'crashing my bike' during the swerve avoidance section of the test! It is extremely dangerous. My test was undertaken in the rain in an HGV testing station. This location is completely inappropriate. As a result of my 'accident' I have an extremely sore right shoulder and left leg. Fortunately, I was dressed with suitable safety clothing or matters would have been worse.

This addition to bike training programme has to be rethought before a serious injury takes place!
G. MacDougall, Scotland

Agree (9) | Disagree (2)

From the evidence of the video clip the manoeuvre does not seem dangerous or difficult so, properly trained, the candidate should cope. If the objective is to train the candidate in collision avoidance I cannot see the problem although I am open to persuasion.
Roy Buchanan, Principal Road Safety Officer, Sutton

Agree (13) | Disagree (5)