The way new motorcycle riders train and qualify could be transformed if Bermuda’s road safety experts achieve their goal of a comprehensive instruction scheme.
Antoine Richards, Bermuda Motorcycling Academy founder and chief instructor, has submitted a proposal to Government to make an on-road training programme mandatory for all new riders.
The proposal, which is under consideration by transport minister Walter Roban, was designed to build on the existing Project Ride programme — a scheme that is only mandatory for school pupils and does not include on-road training.
Mr Richards said a graduated licensing programme would help to reduce the island’s high levels of crashes involving teenagers.
Mr Roban has said the proposal is subject to the findings of a Green Paper on Transportation, but he has backed better training in the past.
Mr Richards, 31, said: “This government has been seeking input and it seems like it is part of its mandate to make this happen. That is obviously very encouraging.”
Project Ride was made compulsory for school pupils in 2010.
Seventy-eight 16-year-olds were admitted to the emergency room or urgent care centre last year as a result of a traffic injury.
The figure was the same in 2013, but shot up to 95 in 2014 before a gradual reduction.
The number of crashes involving those aged between 16 to 20 has decreased from 345 in 2010 to 161 in 2016. Those aged 21 to 25 are most likely to die in a road crash and 16-year-olds who are the most likely to be injured.
Graduated licensing programmes have been proven to reduce road mortality and injury around the world.
Research supported by the American-based National Institutes of Health backed the view that graduated licensing programmes cut the rate of fatal crashes among 16 to 17-year-olds by 8 to 14 per cent.
The B/Moto programme is based on the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency graduated licensing programme.
Mr Richards said there will be a critical gap in training until the programme is made compulsory.
He added: “Riding isn’t something you can learn in six months when you first get on the bike and repeat the same thing over and over — that is why we get the problems we do because you get a bad habit.
“You get caught out or get into an accident and you try to Band-Aid the bad habit with something else that might not be best practice. You haven’t corrected the problem.
“When I am on the road, it is all about making corrections and trying to create a safe framework for them to gain their experience on the road without forming dangerous habits.”
Mr Richards said his pupils still raised “red flags” when riding on the roads at speed for the first time after they join him from Project Ride.
He added: “Maintaining spacing behind vehicles is a massive red flag. I’m amazed at how entirely comfortable people are driving so close to the vehicle in front.
“If you had been taught properly, you would never become comfortable riding right behind someone’s tail because it has been put in your head that you must be able to stop in time.
“Another red flag is lack of confidence in using their front brakes properly. There are so many people afraid of their front brakes on this island that it is scary.
“I find new students have problems judging the speed of other vehicles, maintaining a steady rate of speed for themselves and positioning within their own lane.”
The Royal Gazette has asked to attend Project Ride sessions to get an idea of the level of training, but was told by government road safety officer David Minors that the visit would need to be authorised.
The Drive for Change campaign has backed a graduated licensing programme.
Extra training has also been greenlighted by road safety group A Piece of the Rock, the Bermuda Police Service, the Bermuda Road Safety Council, doctors and emergency medical technicians, as well as antialcohol abuse charity Cada.
Joseph Froncioni, an orthopaedic surgeon and road safety expert, is also a supporter.
Anyone interested in B/Moto training should contact Mr Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit bmotoacademy.com or Bermuda Motorcycling Academy on Facebook
Graduated Licensing Programme
The first stage of training would remain as now — young people would complete Project Ride then take their test at the Transport Control Department.
Before riders can obtain their youth licence, they would need an endorsement from a qualified riding instructor who has taken them on the road and completed a two-hour assessment.
After qualification for a youth licence, youngsters will then be encouraged to get an intermediate licence, which would need a further five hours of on-road training before taking another test.
To get a full licence — the 150cc licence — the process would remain the same as now, except the 150cc test would be followed by a two-hour on-road assessment on a 150cc bike.
Students in graduated licensing programmes must adhere to the rules of the road.
Any major violations would result in them having to return to the previous stage and delay the acquisition of a full licence.
As with the youth licence, students must adhere to special rules. These include not riding at night and not carrying passengers.
The full programme would take about two years to complete.
‘It gave me much more confidence’
The Royal Gazette took to the roads with teenage rider Jaiden Furbert-Jacobs during a lesson with the Bermuda Motorcycle Academy around the streets of Hamilton.
The 16-year-old Berkeley Institute pupil said: “It has been very, very helpful. Project Ride focused on the small stuff — it didn’t really teach me about situations on the road and how to control your bike and road speed.
“You are giving keys to a bike to a person who really doesn’t ride on the road.
“B/Moto helps a lot, I know how to control my bike at different speeds now and Antoine taught me how, when I am turning, to put pressure on the outside of the bike to have more control.
“B/Moto gave me more confidence in myself, controlling a bike and a better understanding of road conditions and traffic.
Jaiden added: “My mom was really concerned about me on a bike and getting into an accident. She encouraged me to do it and I actually really liked it.
“A lot of kids at school think, ‘I’m okay, I’ve done Project Ride, I can ride’ and they just hop on the road.
“They don’t really know that you need to understand the road and what to do in certain situations.”