The Brake and Swerve Manoeuvre of the 2nd EC Driving Licence Directive

Published on 27 May 2002 by Gill

This EC requirement for the motorcycle test in the amended Second EC Driving Licence Directive will, if implemented, have negative and far-reaching implications for UK rider testing and training. Yet, in spite of the efforts of the delegates of FEMA's UK organisations since early 2001, a full debate did not take place until the May 2002 meeting and it has still not been completely resolved with a position taken by the European motorcyclists' lobby. Nevertheless, it was agreed that clarification from the UK's Driving Standards Agency and the European Commission on how they propose to implement it is to be sought.

These notes are intended to set out the issues and the actions which the BMF and BMF RTS would like to be taken on behalf of Europe's motorcyclists and taken up by FEMA as a body with the support of its constituency organisations.


One of the amendments to the Second EC Driving Licence Item 6.2.4 requires for the motorcycle test:

At least two manoeuvres to be executed at higher speed, of which one manoeuvre in second or third gear, at least 30 km/h and one manoeuvre avoiding an obstacle at a minimum speed of 50 km/h; this should allow competence to be assessed in the position of the motorcycle, vision, direction, balance, steering technique and technique of changing gears;

Our interpretation of this is that the first exercise at lower speed is an emergency stop with the second being a collision avoidance manoeuvre comprising braking followed by swerving. It is the latter with which we have concerns.

Rationale of the Exercise

The exercise appears to be based upon the findings of a study by Watanabe and Yoshide in 1973. At this time, while hydraulic disc brakes were being introduced for larger capacity machines, much of the motorcycle parc and especially machines accessible to learners employed relatively ineffective cable operated drum brakes. Hence, with the poor braking performance of most motorcycles of the period, collision avoidance by manoeuvring rather than by a full emergency stop appeared to be the most effective option.

In 1976 the US motorcycle training body, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation published a report in which collision avoidance manoeuvres had frequently failed in tests through rear wheel skids being induced. Yet, to stave off further legislation, they still implemented it into their training programme. Subsequently in 1990, respected Californian researcher Jim Oullet undertook mathematical modelling of collision avoidance scenarios where he dismissed braking followed by swerving as a suitable means of doing so. Such a manoeuvre is increasingly being shown to be difficult to teach to inexperienced riders. The sequence of initially braking, releasing the brake and then taking avoiding action is a complex one to master compared with an emergency stop which is complex enough already. There is the added difficulty of a motorcycle's transition from changing direction by counter steering and at lower speeds, changing direction by direct steering. Oullet also recommended more emphasis on training for positioning to avoid or mitigate the effects of emergencies. Coupled with better training of the use of observation, this could be the most effective practice to avoid the situations that brake and swerve is intended to address.

It also appears that as part of the German-style stepped licensing regime, some countries such as Sweden adopted the collision avoidance manoeuvre as part of a test to progress from basic to larger motorcycles reinforcing the assertion that it is best taught to riders who already have a degree of experience. Nevertheless, members of SMC, Sweden's riders' group claim that the braking and swerving manoeuvre has been taught to beginners for the last two years or so with no significant problems.

Swerving to avoid collisions is routinely taught in the US by their Motorcycle Safety Foundation although it is generally separated from braking. Due to the potential for litigation for the liability of service providers, all training is conducted off-road with swerving conducted at speeds much lower than 50 km/h. Braking technology has improved significantly since the 1970s with hydraulic disc brakes almost universally available. There is increasing market penetration of anti-lock braking systems, linked front and rear brakes, and combinations of the two. These sophisticated systems are finding their way into Light Motorcycles (accessible to learners in the UK) and, of course, on the over 35 kW machines required for the Direct Access Scheme where riders of over 21 can avoid the stepped licence procedure by training and testing on larger motorcycles.

Italian research has suggested that riders do not fully utilise their brakes resulting in accidents which could be avoided by better braking techniques in emergency situations. This has been confirmed by the University of Vienna which concluded that the average rider only uses brakes to 56% of their maximum efficiency. A 2001 report by Vagverket, the roads authority in Sweden where brake and swerve is part of the testing and training regime, claims that the majority of fatal single vehicle motorcycle accidents are from loss of control with 'braking faults' cited as a significant problem - a problem not being addressed by brake and swerve exercises conducted off-road. This all suggests that better training to utilise the brakes more fully would be more appropriate than the more complex (for inexperienced riders) braking followed by swerving manoeuvre.

The most recent study from Sweden was conducted on groups of new drivers who had been given 'skills training' and 'hazard perception' training. Its conclusions indicated that the 'skills group' was no safer than other groups and that many drivers put themselves more in harms way due to overconfidence in their abilities. This suggests that rather than requiring new riders to learn more mechanical skills like collision avoidance, they should be subject to better hazard awareness training.

From a practical point of view, if a pedestrian steps out, which way should the rider swerve since the pedestrian may freeze, step back or make a run for it? Similarly with a car emerging from a junction into a motorcyclist's path, will it stop, reverse or continue to move forward? Trying to swerve around the front could put the rider into the path of oncoming traffic. Training to be correctly positioned, observe, anticipate and use the full power of the brakes in an emergency situation will avoid the need to make such a decision in these no win situations.

Practical Issues in Implementation

I cannot speak for other member states of the EU but in the UK, I anticipate severe problems regarding the implementation of the collision avoidance manoeuvre in the motorcycle test. The primary difficulty is that the manoeuvre is to be conducted at speeds in excess of 50 km/h. In the UK, the default speed for urban areas is a slower 30 mph. Hence it will be necessary for all testing and training to be conducted off-road. Much of the UK is densely populated where the space required with a sufficient run-off area is at a premium so that a limited number of locations will be available for testing and training.

a) Testing

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA), the executive agency responsible for testing and training has expressed its concerns about a requirement for assessing collision avoidance and anticipates that it will cost in the region of Euro 67 million to put into place. With part of its remit to be self-financing this cost will be passed on to motorcycle test candidates increasing the cost of the motorcycle test.

In addition, sites where it is possible to conduct this assessment will be limited. The decision has been made not to use roadworthiness testing stations for Large Goods Vehicles with the limited number of sites likely to be available will require candidates to travel further. The result will be either a reduced number of centres able to offer the motorcycle test, or the collision avoidance manoeuvre having to be assessed separately with a commensurate increase in costs and bureaucracy.

b) Training

If collision avoidance is to be part of the motorcycle test, then riders must be trained to undertake it. The implications for the rider training industry are more serious than for the DSA.

As for testing, the available sites with sufficient space to teach and practice the manoeuvre will be limited. Some of the smaller training centres may be forced to drop post Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) pre-test courses because they will be unable to access suitable sites. Others will be forced to rent land at premium costs and distant from their usual base.

In teaching such a complicated manoeuvre to inexperienced riders some accidents will be inevitable. Damage to training school bikes will lead to an increase in operating costs through repairs and a reduction in their residual values. There will also be an increase in damage and personal injury claims made by trainees. At best, insurance premiums will increase. The worst case scenario is that some training providers will be forced out of business by becoming uninsurable.

The outcome is that novice motorcyclists will be subject to significantly higher costs which training providers will be unable to absorb, reduced choice and the need to travel further to take training.

These are not just the concerns of the BMF but its sister organisation the BMF Rider Training Scheme and also the Motorcycle Rider Training Association and the National Motorcycle Council.

Actions - Actual and Proposed

The BMF has already approached the Driving Standards Agency, the Federation of European Motorcyclists' Associations and international motorcycling organisation, FIM with requests for action aimed to remove the collision avoidance requirement.

Approaches have been made to the European manufacturers' umbrella group, ACEM through the UK's Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA).

The National Motorcycle Council, which is the UK's motorcycling forum, has written to the European Commission DG Energy and Transport's Harald Ruyters to express its concerns. Unfortunately he has failed to reply to the two letters sent to him.

The collision avoidance manoeuvre was added to the Second EC Driving Licence Directive retrospectively as an amendment through technical progress late in 2000. Some 5 years' grace has been given for national governments to implement the changes in their driving test procedures. Neither FEMA nor ACEM opposed the amendments at the time although the DSA, acting for the UK Government, expressed reservations. The BMF was not made fully aware of the implications of the collision avoidance manoeuvre until later. Since it would be difficult to call for a further retrospective amendment to remove it we propose to do so through the Third EC Driving Licence Directive. The Draft Directive is currently stalled prior to the stage where it is given formal consideration by the EU institutions to give it legislative status but it could go live at any time. Hence it is recommended that we call for the collision avoidance requirement to be withdrawn through that Directive effectively overruling the Directive which precedes it.

In view of the lack of recent research on the various methods of collision avoidance and improvements in motorcycle braking systems, it is suggested that before recommending requirements for specific manoeuvres to be included in the driving test, research into the causes of motorcycle accidents, the means of avoiding them and the characteristics of motorcycles with modern braking systems is undertaken. A pan-European approach spearheaded by FEMA would be the best option although UK bodies are willing to lobby independently if necessary.

We propose to lobby through the BMF RTS centres by making them aware of the problems that they are likely to face. In addition, the wider BMF lobbying mechanism will be put into play. We will be following up the unanswered correspondence with the European Commission and contacting the UK representative on COREPER - the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Council of Ministers. There may also be the opportunity to mount practical demonstrations by instructors from the BMF RTS with a suitable format under consideration. We may, in mounting a UK-based lobby call upon the help of the BMF's membership to bring pressure to bear on the EU institutions.

The matter is to be considered at the next FIM Congress as a major item by the CMT. In addition the rider safety conference organised by FIM and CIECA in October will include practical demonstrations of collision avoidance with the object of encouraging discussion by delegates.


The BMF questions the value of the collision avoidance manoeuvre as a means of improving motorcycle safety and considers that teaching and assessing alternatives like braking, positioning and observation would be more valuable. There is also a need for better research.

There are serious implications for UK rider training. It has a relatively good safety record which could be undermined by the introduction of this manoeuvre.

We recommend a pan-European Campaign to remove this requirement although the UK is prepared to go it alone if necessary. Its removal from Driving Licence Directives will not prevent those countries which consider it to be of value from continuing to offer it as part of their testing and training regime. Instead it will remove the pressure from beleaguered training bodies who question its value.

Trevor Magner

Last reviewed/updated 26.09/04