The dreaded swerve test - What do you think?

I don’t know how many of you have heard about the swerve test or ‘hazard avoidance’ as they like to call it, but it’s a manoeuvre that was introduced last year into Module 1 of the motorcycle test over here in the UK.

The manoeuvre involves riding at a speed of 50kph (31mph) and then purposely swerving around some cones approximately 10 metres after the speed check. The idea of this is to simulate dodging around an obstacle/hazard in the road.

However, you have only two attempts to complete this successfully and given that your speed is electronically measured as the rider enters the first set of cones, it is quite possible to fail the test simply by not quite achieving the required speed. Consequently, a significant amount of practice is required beforehand (on both wet and dry roads since the test remains the same regardless of the weather) which presents many opportunities for mishap.

31mph doesn’t really seem that fast when you first consider it – so how bad can this swerve test be?
The manoeuvre was originally brought in to comply with European Union legislation, and it was designed with a view to improving road safety and making motorcyclists more prepared for a similar situation on the road.

When I researched into the swerve test on the Internet, I came across many news articles and accounts of learners’ experiences; there are very little positive comments about it.

It was even reported last year by the BBC that after less than one month of the manoeuvre being introduced, the UK Government was already under pressure to reconsider it after many crashes.

As I am soon to take my motorcycle test, I decided to have a go at this swerve test myself because it seems very daunting. I recently attended a training day with one of my local training organisations with the intention of practicing all of the manoeuvres presented in Module 1 of the test.

However, when we were being briefed on the swerve test, the instructor seemed very hesitant to have to students practice the manoeuvre at the full speed of 31mph and our speed was not monitored.

I decided to first have a go at the swerve manoeuvre at a speed of around 20mph. Even at this speed it took me a couple of attempts before I swerved smoothly without almost knocking over the cone. On each attempt I was trying to build my speed up a little and by 25mph I began feeling very unsafe.

It took me a lot of attempts to build up the confidence to reach 31mph, although I still felt it was very unsteady and unsafe. I felt as if on each attempt I was taking a huge risk of crashing my pride-and-joy motorcycle.

Furthermore, given that most speedometers read slow, I suspect that I will still be required to ride a little faster still to achieve the minimum speed required.

I honestly consider this part of the motorcycle test to be very dangerous. I think that no matter what speed you are travelling at, it is never safe to swerve on two wheels because there is simply not enough stability there. After experiencing this for myself, I really think it’s no wonder that so many learners have been crashing on this part of the test.

After my experience on my training day I am ever so grateful that I have had the opportunity to practice the swerve, because without practice I don’t think I will be able to swerve successfully in my test with only two attempts.

My question is this: If this is deemed an ‘essential’ manoeuvre for motorcycles, then why is it not essential for cars too?

Both cars and motorcycles are equally as likely to experience a situation on the road where they may need to swerve, yet motorcyclists are the only ones expected to do this during the test.

Thankfully, the UK Government came to their senses and recently decided to remove the swerve manoeuvre from the test completely. However, this is only happening at the end of 2011.

I did consider whether to wait until then to take my test, although I would like to have my full motorcycle licence sooner rather than later.

Time will tell as to whether I have made the right decision or not!

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