Driver training & testing reforms: small steps, but no strides towards cyclists' safety

Government's reforms to driver training and testing need to go further
Cherry Allan's picture

Driver training & testing reforms: small steps, but no strides towards cyclists' safety

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) new plans for reforming the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) and DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) make a few promising commitments to protect cyclists better, but still fall far short of Cycling UK’s recommendations.

The DfT's reforms focus largely on adapting the DVLA and DVSA to the modern driving experience which, as Cycling UK pointed out during the DfT’s consultation phase, include encountering more cyclists more often on the roads. Cycling safety is of prime concern to us, and we were most certainly amongst the several respondents who, as the DfT reports: “… were worried by the overall standard of driving in the UK, and felt it has declined in recent years.”

As such, we welcome the Strategy’s general commitment to “… consider how we can take greater account of a [driving test] candidate’s respect for other road users (particularly vulnerable road users).” We were especially pleased to see that the current revamp already involves work on broadening the range of scenarios presented in the Hazard Perception Test “… providing experience of real life situations such as encountering vulnerable road users.”

Cycling UK also supports the idea of logbooks for learner drivers and, happily, the DfT says it does too. Moreover, they are going to consider whether the logbooks should “cover not only those competencies needed to pass the practical test, but also behaviours that will inculcate a positive attitude to eco-driving and courtesy towards other, especially vulnerable road users.” 

Otherwise, however, the Strategy does not go into much detail about its plans for improving cycling safety, so we still need to press for the specific measures we flagged up in our response, i.e.: fully integrating cycle awareness training into the learning and testing process, and placing more weight on ensuring that drivers understand the reasons behind road traffic laws (e.g. on speed limits and mobile phones).

Cycling UK believes protecting cyclists and pedestrians is the priority, not making the industry’s life as easy as possible. In fact, we want the Government to make practical cycle training to Bikeability Level 3 a compulsory requirement for HGV drivers, not just awareness training.

Cherry Allan 
Campaigns and Policy Coordinator

Amongst our other recommendations was the need for the Government to give serious consideration to re-tests, particularly for older drivers, but the DfT says it won’t look into this before the Older Drivers’ Task Force reports back later this year. On unfitness to drive - another concern of ours - the DfT promises to continue working with the General Medical Council and other professionals to improve awareness of medical conditions and driving.

While the above is, as a whole, reasonably reassuring if a little watery, the Strategy’s pronouncements on lorry driver training are very disappointing. Although the DfT says that it is working with the industry to encourage trainers to include “relevant content” on vulnerable road users, it explicitly rejects making such training compulsory on the basis this “would require a legislative change and […] would be overly burdensome to the industry.” Cycling UK believes protecting cyclists and pedestrians is the priority, not making the industry’s life as easy as possible. In fact, we want the Government to make practical cycle training to Bikeability Level 3 a compulsory requirement for HGV drivers, not just awareness training. Clearly, there is more campaigning yet to do on this point.

Other disappointments were: the lack of any reference at all to Bikeability and the contribution it could make to giving learner drivers a valuable insight into cyclists’ needs and behaviour; no explicit mention of Graduated Driver Licensing (a system that allows new drivers to build up their driving skills and experience gradually); and nothing on accompanying any measures that make it easier to gain licences by stronger mechanisms for losing them (principally through stronger roads policing and prosecutions). For more on these measures, which Cycling UK strongly supports, see our original response to the DfT’s consultation

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Comments

I am holder of both HGV and PCV 1 licences, a level 3 adult trained cyclist also ride leader. The request for drivers to be trained to level 3 was perhaps hopeful at best, but there should be emphasis on passing space, an explanation of turbulence during the overtake as this is probably the most dangerous factor when a large vehicle is alongside a cyclist. The driver instruction already caters for 'safe; overtaking and road positioning, so maybe a push for proximity sensors would be a better angle.

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