Driver training, testing and licensing

Briefing
The more drivers who are trained and tested on how to interact with cyclists, the better

Driver training, testing and licensing

Headline Message 
  • All road users share a social responsibility to respect the rules of the road and one another’s safety.
  • Many drivers also cycle, but those who don’t may not know what kind of driving behaviour puts cyclists at risk or makes them feel unsafe. Making cycle awareness integral to the driver training and testing process would help address this.
  • On-road, practical cycle training not only helps drivers understand cyclists’ needs, but is also a good head-start for driving test candidates. 
Policy Key Facts 
  • Drivers who cycle: are more likely to feel positive towards cyclists and understand them better; are less likely to be involved in collisions with them; and pay more attention to changes in the road scene.
  • Over two thirds of drivers think they are safer than most, although very nearly half admit to breaking traffic laws;
  • In collisions, cycles are the vehicle-type least likely to have ‘contributory factors’ attributed to them by the police (apart from buses/coaches);
  • Although not as risky or at as much risk as younger drivers, drivers who are 70 or over are a higher risk group and more likely to be at fault than middle-aged motorists;
  • About three million drivers in Great Britain have points on their licence;
  • In March 2017, almost 10,000 drivers with 12 or more points on record were entitled to drive at the time.
Cycling UK View 
  • Cycle awareness should be integrated into the general driver training and testing process, with a specified amount of instruction time devoted to it.
  • The theory test should include more questions about driving around cyclists, and examine candidates on both their understanding of the rules of the road and why they need to respect them, e.g. on speed limits and mobile phone use. 
  • The hazard perception test needs to examine candidates thoroughly on their awareness of how their driving can affect the safety and comfort of cyclists.
  • The practical test should examine the ability to drive at lower speeds, especially 20 mph.
  • Driving test candidates should be strongly encouraged to undertake cycle training, unless they have already completed Bikeability Level 3 cycle training. It should be mandatory for driving instructors and all other professional drivers, particularly of lorries and other large vehicles. Suitable alternatives should be developed for people with disabilities that prevent them from cycling.
  • To reduce the disproportionate risks faced and posed by young/novice drivers, Cycling UK supports increasing the minimum age before which candidates can sit their test to 18.
  • Cycling UK supports the principles of ‘graduated driver licensing’, including:
    • Requiring learner drivers to complete both a minimum learning period of at least 12 months, and a minimum number of hours of driving lessons under professional instruction;
    • A ban on carrying passengers at night for a set period;
    • Increasing the period after passing their test during which drivers lose their licence after accumulating six points (rather than the normal 12 points) from two years to three years, and requiring them to take an extended re-test.
  • Consideration should be given to imposing less stringent conditions on young drivers who have successfully completed Bikeability Level 3 cycle training.
  • Parents and others involved in the unpaid supervision of learner drivers should be encouraged to take up refresher driving courses.
  • The Government should encourage and promote refresher training.
  • As part of their ongoing Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), drivers of large vehicles should be required to undergo Continuous Professional Development (CPD) modules in cycle awareness and practical cycle training.
  • The DVSA (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency) should provide clear, comprehensive information for drivers on: renewing; self-declaration and its importance; vision and fitness to drive, and alternatives to driving.
  • The Government should seriously consider introducing formal re-tests for older drivers. The age at which the first re-test should be taken, and the frequency of subsequent re-tests, should be decided on the basis of evidence (i.e. on when reaction and hazard perception skills typically start declining for older age groups).
  • Medical professionals should always exercise their responsibility to report people whose driving is likely to be hazardous to the authorities.
  • Eyesight should be assessed by a medical/optical professional before the test, not by the driving examiner. Drivers’ vision should be tested every ten years up to the age of 50; every five years after 50; and every three years after 70. A sight test should be compulsory after any traffic collision.
  • Cycle awareness and cycle training needs to be included in remedial training courses for people who have committed driving offences, and in the re-testing of disqualified drivers, particularly where a cyclist is the victim.
  • Disqualified drivers, those who have accumulated 12 points and/or committed a serious offence should take a compulsory re-test linked to remedial training.
Download the full detailed campaign briefing 
Many drivers also cycle, but those who don’t may not know what kind of driving behaviour puts cyclists at risk, or makes them feel unsafe. Integrating cycle awareness with the driver training and testing process would help tackle this.