Advantages lower insurance? calming and mellower
Disadvantages older drivers can be just as bad, experience is not just automatic with age
Just to give a brief background on my driving history:
My sister has a photograph of me when I was about 2, sat in my Dad's Ford Anglia behind the steering wheel grinning at the camera.
I can remember sitting in the back seat of the car when we used to go visiting relatives, looking at road signs and remembering them from the copy of the highway code we had at home, not because I could understand it yet, but I liked looking at the pictures of cars, motorbikes etc.
I passed my car test when I was 17, and my motorcycle test at 18.
Until January 2009, when I was hit when stationary from behind in my car, I had not been involved in a car accident, which you maybe could also put down to a little bit of luck. Although I have had a few motorcycle “off's” - fortunately I was able to walk away from every one – more about that below.
I suppose I take my driving quite seriously, although I do enjoy driving, and riding my motorcycle. I try to drive within my, and my vehicles limits – (but then we all would say that wouldn't we?), but one of the main factors I have to consider is the limits of other peoples driving, which judging by the increasing amount of damage to roadside objects around where I live – is getting lower all the time.
I began instructing not long after the Direct Access laws had been introduced to the UK – Which meant that a learner rider, over the age of 21 could learn to ride on a large motorcycle, and take their test on it – This would enable them to ride any size motorcycle once they had their full licence, rather than pass their test on a 125 and be restricted to 33 BHP for 2 years.Another point to note at this time was a biking quirk known as the Born Again Biker – This was typically an ex biker from the 60's who had cut their teeth on bikes like Norton Commando, BSA Gold Star, Triumph Bonneville etc. This rider had then got married, had kids, settled down and sold the bike. Cut to 30 – 40 years later and the mortgage was now paid off, and the new breed of bikes (Honda Fireblade, Kawasaki Ninja, Ducati 916 etc.) now looked very appealing. Couple the present day performance of a modern sportsbike, (0-60 mph in under 2.5 seconds, in first gear! ) with a rider who hasn't the experience to control it, and you have a recipe for disaster. In fact the accident rate soared for this age group on these large capacity motorbikes.
During my work, I taught a wide range of pupils, ranging from 16 to 85 years old. One of the oldest pupils I had, was someone that reminded me of Joyce Grenfell from the old St Trinian films, and she was having to resit her CBT as her old one had expired. Although she was polite, and very well spoken, she was a little impatient during the theory as she had done it all before.
Moving to the riding, she almost scared to death another pupil, a young 16 year old lad, who was also learning on the same day, by tearing around the training ground, scraping the foot-pegs of her little Honda on the floor, looking something like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.
On asking her to calm it down a little bit she responded haughtily
“BUT I CAN RIDE !”
One sad occurrence came a couple of years after I had helped a schoolmate through his test. Although this individual was a tear or so younger than me. He passed his test on a 125, then elected to wait a couple of years before purchasing and riding a Honda CBR600. This I felt defeated the object of the two year probation period as he had not ridden anything else since his test.
I had heard the local motorcycle group had later refused to ride with him as they thought him too dangerous – and it was only a few weeks later when he was killed, after he was racing a friend on the local back roads, and crossed onto the other side of the road on a blind series of bends. He hit an oncoming car and was killed instantly. He was just 26 years old
A few months later I taught his cousin and I had to ask the question,
“Hasn't it put you off?”
“No” he replied “because with . . . . . , it was more or less a forgone conclusion, he was either going to kill himself in his car, or on his bike – I suppose all we can be thankful for is that it wasn't in his car, where he could have killed his passengers.”
Apart from the waste, this lad could have been a really good driver/rider as he had the machine control, but just not the restraint to shut off the throttle. Would he have mellowed as he got older? I don't know, but is it cynical to wonder if anyone with that sort of attitude to driving could last that long?
During a seminar, that our senior instructor took part in, he actually made the suggestion of dropping the minimum age limit to something along the lines of some European countries.
14 years was mentioned, possibly riding vehicles of less power than current mopeds (30 mph / 50cc ).
This, he stated, had not led to the carnage that everyone thought it would have. Also introducing road skills with a powered vehicle had helped these younger people to gain a better respect for road and traffic conditions, even to get “it out of the system” before they were old enough to move onto a more powerful vehicle.
Would it have worked? Could it work?
I don't know, but its interesting to consider, especially when you look at the Born Again Biker accident ate mentioned earlier. Is age as much of an issue as having the right attitude?
I've certainly seen plenty of bad, aggressive drivers of many age groups, men and women, although I would admit, more men than women.
Recently, one of my best friends decided to take his bike test, and also his wife. He is now the proud owner of a HondaCBR600 - but a few things have played on my mind:
Currently I have over 9 years no claims insurance on my motorcycle, which is the maximum for the company I am with, but my friend with no experience, and a new policy can actually get insurance for less than half of what I am paying !. This is taking into account the slight difference in machines we ride (although very simllar in insurance groups) and my advanced instructor qualification.
Also on riding with him, when we returned back to his house, his teenage son asked how the day had gone.
"Fine, we rode pretty much at the same speed, but I was a bit faster through traffic"
Now this comment worried me a little, and maybe I am reading too much into his comment, but to me it seemed to be hinting at something all too familiar.
Is it myself being competitive when I thought.
"I could have ridden a whole bloody lot faster if I had wanted to." ?
But I don't think so, more that I was concerned that he thought of the ride out in this way.
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