Tough motorbike law to boost road safety

Tougher rules for motorcyclists will improve road safety while making it harder to pass driving tests, say officials.

DUBAI // Tougher rules for motorcyclists will improve road safety while making it harder to pass driving tests, Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) officials said yesterday. Motorcyclists will now be tested on braking, avoidance techniques and slow driving. Previously, tests had centred on riding on a figure of eight circuit while keeping feet clear of the road. The number of lessons required to be granted a licence will rise to a minimum of 30 from the previous 16.

Applicants who registered for licences earlier this year have until September to pass their tests or be subject to the new rules. The tougher rules were introduced to increase safety on the roads, said Sultan Al Marzooki, the director of the RTA drivers licensing department. "The licensing agency appreciates the need to provide the best means of protecting motorbike drivers, as they are among the most risk-prone drivers on roads," he said.

Motorcyclists also welcomed the changes, saying new riders needed more stringent training in a high-risk environment such as Dubai. Traffic Police data showed 15 deaths and 127 injuries in 2008-2009, with one motorcycle accident occurring every three days. "It's good to have these new rules," said Rajan Singh, a motorcycle enthusiast and owner of a Harley-Davidson and a Royal Enfield. "You need these skills to stay alive."

As part of the new test, prospective riders will have to stop at red lights that will be controlled remotely by examiners. Ability to maintain control on the road will be tested in a series of swerving exercises, to simulate motorists changing lane without having seen a cyclist. Teaching riders both slow and fast manoeuvers would help in risky situations, said Nic Saunders, a training specialist at the RTA. The new exercises are part of a programme developed in Australia, where they were thought to improve safety.

Australian instructors spent three months training local examiners in the new techniques. "Motorcycles are vulnerable in traffic, and often not seen by other road users," Mr Saunders said. "It was felt that the training system needed to prepare motorcyclists."