December 22 2010.

Plans for a new motorcycle test have been criticised by the Public and Commercial Services union for increasing the risk of injuries on our roads.

The union, which represents 2,000 staff in the Driving Standards Agency, apparently has grave concerns about the dangers faced by examiner members and test candidates if the government's ideas about testing manoeuvres on the public roads see the light of day.

While still in opposition, road safety minister Mike Penning criticised the current motorcycle test as being "gold-plated" and not sufficiently accessible. However, one of his first acts as minister was to stop the planned acquisition of multi-purpose test centre locations in the south east, making access worse.

Mr Penning has also said the motorcycle test should become a single event test. This means motorcycle candidates will now have to pay more and risk losing £75 rather than the current £15.50 fee if they fail.

The PCS says that the current motorcycle test provides a safe off-road area with a high grip surface and no street furniture such as kerbs, road studs or drain covers. Injuries to the small proportion of candidates who have fallen
from their bikes on the off-road area have been minor. If they were to come off on the public highway there would be danger from other traffic as well as street furniture which could result in serious injury or death.

Steve Grigor, DSA vice president for PCS, said: "The test we agreed with DSA is just beginning to have a real impact in reducing the number of motorcyclists killed and injured on our roads.

"Examiners are seeing real improvements in the skill levels of new motorcyclists that have been driven by the new test. But the minister is apparently prepared to throw away these road safety benefits in favour of cutting public spending."