Are Advanced Riders Safer Riders?

Welcome to the first instalment in our safety feature campaign series: Devitt Rider Safety with road safety journalist  @djrwilliams.

We’re on a mission to create heightened awareness and debate around vital rider safety topics, initiatives and campaigns. Riders love to talk about all the latest safety and riding skills and here, at Devitt, we aim to be at the very forefront of that discussion.

Join the debate today on social media at #DevittRiderSafety


You can always spot an advanced motorcycle rider – and not just by their ‘club’ lapel badges, meticulous pre-ride checks and, more often than not, a sparkling clean bike.

They look as though they ‘own’ their bit of the road as they ride past, radiating confidence, composure and courtesy. They tend to be obsessive about observing speed limits in built-up areas too.

But – and this is the crucial question – are they any safer than other riders? It seems obvious that they must have fewer accidents, injuries and mishaps than ‘ordinary’ motorcyclists but nobody really knew. Until now.

IAM RoadSmart – formerly the Institute of Advanced Motorists – has trained thousands of riders since launching the advanced bike test in 1987. Of 85,000 members overall, 25,000 are motorcyclists and they are often the most active, meeting regularly for ride-outs, rallies and social events.

But no one could prove whether all the extra training – it takes an average of three months of one-to-one coaching before taking the famous test – makes them any safer. So IAM RoadSmart asked Agilysis – leading transport behaviour and safety consultants – to get to the bottom of this mystery. And the data threw up some welcome, at times surprising, answers.

Few collisions per mile

The good news for advanced riders is that they are indeed involved in fewer collisions per mile than riders who have not completed advanced rider coaching. The survey of around 1,300 riders also revealed that advanced riders are more aware of other drivers and riders’ limitations and more likely to show consideration for other road users.

There’s more good news for those who have undergone – or plan to undergo – advanced training. Advanced riders are less ‘hostile’ to other road users (always good for safety), less likely to speed in speed limits under 40mph and – crucially, bearing in mind that ‘twisties’ can be a challenging area for riders – less likely to approach bends too quickly.

Controversially however, advanced riders are more likely to admit to exceeding higher speed limits and undertaking on the inside, although the study says those behaviours were ‘not statistically significant’.

Advanced riders are usually safer by the mile!

Good behaviour

Curiously – this might reflect the type of rider attracted to advanced training in the first place – there were key differences in general behaviour; IAM RoadSmart members are more likely to be involved in their local community and more likely to believe we need more traffic cops. They’re also less likely to agree that it’s safe to drink and ride.

Overall, the study concludes that compared to similar motorcyclists, IAM RoadSmart members show more positive attitudes to ‘collision risk’ and report fewer collisions, once mileage is accounted for. They are more confident in their skills when it comes to what IAM RoadSmart calls ‘speed selection’.

IAM advanced rider

It’s not my fault

The research exposed curious anomalies however – and they won’t all be welcomed by advanced training advocates. Drill down into the data and it shows that while advanced riders have fewer collisions per mile once their higher mileage is accounted for, IAM RoadSmart members do not report fewer injury and ‘damage-only’ collisions per respondent. In fact they have ‘similar proportions of collision involvement’ to others. They are also less likely to believe they were at fault, although that’s not much consolation if you’ve been knocked off.

Advanced riders also have different types of collision. They’re more likely to be in single-vehicle crashes, and those where they drop their own bike. Is that because they often have bigger bikes and dare tackle rougher terrain? The research doesn’t say.

Riders who’ve completed advanced training are also less likely to be involved in right-turn, ‘loss of control’ collisions and rear-end shunts than others. Encouragingly, the ‘difference in miles travelled before a collision’ is statistically significant, says Agilysis.

Faster riders

The research threw up two other interesting points. IAM RoadSmart members tend to ride faster than others. The study says this might be because they are more confident riders, which is ‘not necessarily a bad thing’. They do recommend finding ways of ensuring members don’t get too confident, however.

Agilysis also can’t categorically say whether IAM RoadSmart training is responsible for differences in attitudes; the organisation might just attract riders with a different outlook on life in the first place. It’s a bit chicken and egg.

Riders who have completed advanced training are more confident in their riding abilities and skills!

So where’s all this leave us? Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s Director of Policy and Research, admits the paper leaves ‘a lot of unanswered questions’ and says he would have preferred a ‘more black and white’ outcome.

“The best way to take this further is telematics,” he adds. “We placed ‘black boxes’ with some car members which showed they’re much more likely to brake well, not to speed and anticipate problems better. It shows they’re better drivers. We’re looking for something similar for motorcyclists that will show how safe riders are when they first come to us – and how good they are after passing the test.”

In addition, says Neil, “The vast majority of people who come to us talk about how it’s life-changing. They really enjoy the experience, recommend it to their friends, and 60 per cent say it’s got them out of a sticky situation. The feedback we get is all very positive. In the meantime, we feel it’s a positive report overall and the search for more answers goes on!”


IAM RoadSmart respondents more likely to ‘strongly agree’ that:

  • ‘Extra training has made me a more confident rider’
  • ’I definitely became more observant after completing extra training’
  • ‘Riders who have undertaken additional training are better equipped to ride faster’
  • ‘Training has definitely made me a safer rider’

*A higher percentage of IAM RoadSmart respondents said they ‘often’ motorcycled for holidays, touring or sightseeing.

*More IAM RoadSmart respondents (87%) ride larger motorcycles compared to others (57%).

*96.9% of IAM RoadSmart riders said they rode on the basis that other road users hadn’t seen them, compared with 89.6 of other riders.

*Only 14.5% of advanced riders believe speed cameras are effective at catching dangerous drivers and riders compared to 44% of other riders.

*Only 6.3% of advanced riders say there are enough traffic police, compared to 22.1% of other riders.

*Asked if they find riding ‘quite demanding’, 37.6% of advanced riders agreed, compared to 33.6%.

*The IAM RoadSmart findings were revealed at Road Safety GB’s online PTW event, ‘PTW Riders: improving safety and reducing collisions and casualties’, sponsored by Devitt:


*IAM RoadSmart has a network of highly trained observers attached to local groups who will, on a one-to-one basis, coach you over the course of about two months until you’re ready for the 90-minute advanced riding test. £149 covers the training and test. You can then join IAM RoadSmart for an annual £38 subscription. More at

*RoSPA also has local tutors who prepare you for the RoSPA Advanced Riding Test. For riders aged 26+, the first year’s cost is about £93 (£73 for the test + £20 local group subs). More information at

David Williams is a freelance journalist who specialises in road safety, transport and travel. He’s been the London Evening Standard’s motoring correspondent for 26 years, also contributing to the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times and various magazines. He is a Prince Michael of Kent International Road Safety Awards judge.

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15 comments on “Are Advanced Riders Safer Riders?”

avatarBob Cravensays:

I was driving my car in a 50 mph limit country road a few years back and in amongst other traffic, which was lights at the time and all were giving safe distance between each other. So about 150 ft apart. We were all up to the 50 mph speed limit and then we were overtaken by a BMW motorcycle doing approx 10 to 15 mph faster than ourselves. I thought to myself he must be an Advanced Rider. Later at traffic lights [ we had all caught up with him as usual ] and yes he had the IAM. badge The I AM an Idiot Badge on his windscreen. there was no justification for him to overtake as all traffic was travelling to the speed limit but that was obviously insufficient progress for him.

Why. when all the training organisations say that we should give the full stopping distance behind and therefore not Tailgate any other vehicle, why do they all train in a Advanced riding that in order to overtake where an immediate overtake is not on then one should follow at a safe distance ie. the full stopping distance but then in order to facilitate an overtake one should move closer to the vehicle to be overtaken. That being the now 1 second or the ‘thinking distance’ only That being about 2/3rds of a second .

That is serious Tailgating but all training organisations train drivers and rider how and when to Tailgate.

Why is that? I have to call into question the safety of motorcyclists Tailgating at all in any way or form.

Can someone explain the reasoning to me?.

avatarIain bakersays:

Following distance in dry shd be 2 seconds. Only when the overtake is on(and safe) shd the rider start accelerating and get to the 1 second position. By this time they shd be in center of road or safer still on the other side of road….. I do get what ur saying tho as when this is done badly, or the driver brakes(anticipating overtake)this maneuver can increase the chances of biker rear ending the car. Done correctly there shd be no problems. Don’t forget just because someone’s had the training it doesn’t mean enthusiasm can’t still get the better of them!

avatarBob Cravensays:

I am aware of where you are coming from but in the latest Roadcraft it does also so say that if in the 2nd, position, the closer position and about to overtake if that overtake is not on then one is advised to either resume that closer position or go back to the safer following on position.

So it does advocate that one can still remain in the closer and thus Tailgating position but doesn’t say for how long and that makes one presume that its ok to remain in that position until another opportunity offers itself for another overtake. That Tailgating position is very very dangerous and more so whilst following another vehicle on a bend. As said being so close makes one extremely vulnerable to injury of death if that vehicle in front stops suddenly and you can’t stop in the too short a distance given.

avatarrobert cravensays:

Iain, its not just that. In even the most recent Roadcraft Manual we are still or rather the Police are still advocating the closer overtaking position and that’s where I draw the line. In all off that manual and others before it we are regularly reminded of the 2 second rule and the H.C. [ stopping distances ] which we should all read in conjunction with Roadcraft. Then they forsake that golden rule of being able to stop etc. and allow all vehicles being used by civilians to move closer to the vehicle in front which creates the danger of tailgating as one is unable to stop in that distance
now given. Even if its for one second its a very dangerous position to place oneself in and therefore it should never be recommended or enabled but it is. As you say many riders do remain in that position for much, much longer but they should not have been recommended to place themselves in it the first place.

Its like when we were recommended to be over to the mid line on left hand bends and then advised to sacrifice it if something was coming the other way. That practise and procedure was stopped for civilians as it was perhaps considered to be too dangerous so it was left out of more recent manuals and the road positions have changed from 5 position to just 3 also due to increasing danger to civilians.

Riders in particular are obviously more vulnerable and more so on bends where one is still recommended to place oneself closer to the vehicle to be overtaken before or actually whilst going round a bend so that one can use ones faster acceleration to overtake said vehicle after that bend and onto the straight. If something un towards happens to that vehicle in front and it emergency slows or stops then the biker , who is close behind and lean over still on the bend is or would would be in grave danger of a collision. If able to avoid that vehicle they may swerve to the offside of the road and then may collide with any oncoming vehicle and sometimes they have been know to do just that.

About the police and their publication. Some time ago I wrote to them expressing my concerns regarding this and other matters concerning the safety of civilians who read their books in conjunction with advanced training. Their reply to me was that the roadcraft was and is primarily concerned with the training of police officers or other emergency workers and it was not published for civilians.

However rather than addressing my concerns and the possibility of liability issues, should someone die or be seriously inured as a result of reading their Manual then now, for the first time it has a disclaimer at the front. That refutes any liabilities and it then goes on and places the responsibility directly onto the shoulders of the instructor and or their organisation.

So basically the Police Foundation have washed their hands of any responsibility to it. yet they still sell it to the public and have made a lot of monies by doing so,

avatarMark Nealesays:

Ride to the conditions not a posted speed limit and stop following rules blindly it helps you to be a switched on and thinking Rider and you will find it more enjoyable

avatarrobert cravensays:

Mark, if you look at most if not all of the videos on advanced riding you will probably see that the speed limit appears to be the goal and the norm for advanced riders and all of the time,. That leads to overtake problems as if you are say travelling at 60 mph legally and other drivers are only doing 50 or 55 mph its inevitable that you will catch up with them.

The question is, do you overtake cos if you don’t then you appear not to making progress. So instead of asking the question, one which is DO I NEED to overtake one askes DO I WANT to overtake and they are two entirely very different questions. To my mind only an emergency service vehicle user such as a police officer can deem it to be a NEED as they may need to be somewhere in an emergency., We civilians do not have that NEED at all. By riding to the speed limit one is placing oneself in a more dangerous situation regularly by constantly overtaking everything else in sight.

Its no wonder we have high collision or accident stats for overtake if one is feeling THE WANT to overtake rather THE NEED to overtake. A police officer on normal road traffic duties will asses the speed of traffic and in the main he will keep up with it, hopefully giving safe stopping distances ans observe others from it. Its only in an emergency situation where he MAY feel THE NEED to travel faster than other vehicles and or the speed limits and to overtake when and if safe enough to do so. Lets also not forget that they have the right vehicles which are more obvious to us all and the use of flashing lights and sirens to assist them to make such progress. We do not.

Finally a police officer during his service and driving vehicles will undertake at least some 5 weeks of hard training. That’s at least 200 hours not including and weekend study. To become what is nowadays called an advanced driver or rider. In my days in the service we were classified as being first or second class. Civilians apparently spend 2 hours a week for some 13 weeks, that is a mere 26 hours of tuition to be an advanced driver or rider.

Don’t get me wrong but 26 hors or tuition is far better than none and in most case the rider or drivers will come out of it knowing one hell of a lot more than they did when they first started and that’s why they give it good reviews. Everyone will admit to learning hings they never knew before or perhaps did but failed to put them into practise.

What we actually need is some form of required training for a period of time and after CBT and or passing the DVLA test so that some of that knowledge and skill can be passed on much earlier rather than have to wait till we are much older and ensconced in our bad ways. Maybe Something similar to the old RAC/ACU training scheme which took 26 hours over 3 months and we were taught the basics of motorcycling roadcraft from the start and always with road safety in mind.

avatarPhil Robertssays:

I am not an IAM RoadSmart member or trained IAM rider, I am an Enhanced Rider however having passed the Governments ERS test, taken by a RoSPA examiner, I have studied the IAM manual though and taken a Bike Safe course, I am a Blood Biker, so I ride in all weather delivering Blood and other things between Hospitals, Between Hospitals an Patients at Home, you have to be assed every 3 years to be a Blood Biker which keeps you on your toes, I have toured thousands of miles through Europe on a Honda Goldwing and ridden The Transfagarasen twice as well as the TransAlpina passes all 2-up and without incident but there is always the unknown which could result in an accident, I try to ride in a way that minimises unknown risk.

avatarBob Cravensays:

They say that it takes on average about 3 months of one to one training to become an Advanced rider that is of course finishing the course and passing the test. However what they don’t tell you is that that 12 to 13 weeks of training is taken as a two hour stint so in fact one can be a trained Advanced rider with only 24/6 hours of tuition, sometimes even less..

A police officer will take a full 2 weeks to attain a pass at a standard driving course and 2 to 3 weeks on an advanced course. That includes evening study every day and weekend working on what was taught during the weeks of training. They undertake some 300 to 400 hours of one to one training. So lets get things balanced. Compare 26 hours of training against over 300 hours of training. and there is no comparison.

I have ridden with police officers and also retired ones and can say that they are as different as chalk an cheese and have riding with advanced riders and yes there are some good ones just as in the police force but there are some riders that I refuse to ride our with as in my opinion are just too dangerous to ride out with.

There are advantages in undertaking more training and more training should be made available to all riders, whether it is after CBT or with experienced riders or back to biking riders.but unfortunately there appears to be only one and that is Advanced riding and that’s a shame as many more may take advantage of training if it were available to them and at a notional cost.

avatarBob Cravensays:

The other danger to my mind created by training as an advanced rider is where there is a potential to overtake on or rather after any bend.

That means that one should approach the vehicle to be overtaken prior to the bend ahead and to be in such a position [ closer to him than he law allows or the 2 second rule ] so that after the bend, if all is safe and well as far as one can see then an overtake could be made.

This means that on the actual bend itself one is too close to the vehicle in front and in the event of that vehicle slowing in an emergency or stopping that lack of distance would place one in a serious difficult and dangerous situation. . I say that because you would be too close to stop in the distance that you can see to be clear, that you are lent over and as a result your braking capacity and ability to control your braking whilst being lent over is compromised. You cannot use 100% of your braking capacity but only what is left of your grip availability. ie if doing say 30 mph and at a lean angle of 30 deg/% then you have already used up some 30% of your braking or grip capacity and as a result you cannot anchor on without losing it. If having to brake with only some 70% of capacity without losing your tyres grip it would mean that your braking distance would be somewhat longer than that shown in the H.C of some 75 ft or by the DVSA some 98 ft, much much longer. If however you swerve to avoid hitting the vehicle in front and to your offside you could come into contact with a vehicle coming the other way or head for the kerb and lose control and grip and come off. Its a no win situation and all because in training we are instructed to Tailgate. To forget the basic principles of safer riding to stay well away from anything that could be a danger. To sacrifice safety for the sake of any other consideration and to always give enough room to stop in.

Both dangers are apparently being obvious,. One on a bend and two. a potential overtake. That is a fatal situation to place anyone in and one should stay well away from attempting such an invidious overtake. Remembering that 1 in 6 of collisions/incidents on an overtake ends up with a death.


I did IAM about 25 years ago. I had already riden for 20+ years by then & thought I was a decent rider, e.g. fast, safe & efficient. IAM made me better in all those categories, no question. Ever since, I have judged others on bikes by those standards & tried, often in vain to set an example on the road. Everyone on 2 or 4 wheels can benefit from extra training & regular assessment. Not likely to be mandated any time soon, so for now ‘accident’ stats will be dependent on luck & just how poor we & other road users driving is. To sign off on this I would just like to recount the single most useful thing I was told during training (by retired copper ) – “there’s no such thing as an accident”.

avatarRobert Daysays:

I taught IAM for 23 yrs after having passed the “test” some 5 yrs prior to that. What we taught was enough for candidates to pass a test. They were mostly told post test that they would now begin to really learn to be an advanced rider hopefully continuing to practice what they needed to pass the test. A small majority went on to become really good advanced riders these would be those with a natural talent and skill set to achieve that, but generally most became what could be described as ENHANCED skill riders, aware of their own attitude, the dangers and vulnerability of themselves and hopefully the ability to recognise the inadequacy of other road users and pedestrians.
Therefore the wording ADVANCED motorcyclists only applies to a small majority of relatively highly skilled motorcyclists and most ,but not all, police trained motorcyclists.
So what I’m trying to get across is that ENHANCED levels of observation, anticipation and concentration etc will make a rider better and test worthy and less likely to be involved in any kind of RTC.
But a truly ADVANCED motorcyclist is a different animal and will almost certainly ride with what is bandied around training organisations as SPARKLE. and not understood by most if not all car, van or truck drivers, even so called advanced car, van or truck drivers.
But hey any extra training post ministry driving test has to be better than just having the ability to drive/ ride and should be rewarded by preferential insurance premiums.

Advanced and or Enhanced driving and riding skills is a vast and broad subject with many interpretations and misinterpretations.

These are my own opinions based on years of observation of other riders and road users. Even after all those years of continual learning I still only consider myself as average but hopefully a bit better than average.

avatarBob Cravensays:

I know that comparisons are odious but why are we comparing accident stats between trained Advanced Riders and those that have just passed their CBT. It just doesn’t make sense. If one were to make an estimate by percentages of experience then a novice with a CBT would qualify for say 5 to 7 % . A rider having passed his DSA test would qualify for some 15 to 20 %. An advanced rider would qualify for maybe 30% to 40 % and a trained police rider would qualify in the 60%.mark. An advanced rider trainer should qualify maybe to 70%/ 80% plus of proficiency. Very a few riders would qualify more than that.

The report says that some bikers having taken the course and passed the exam feel that they have learned and achieved something and that’s only to be expected as it doubles their qualification and knowledge or shall we say their experience. If they learned nothing but a CBT and a pass at the DSA exam even with a number of years experience, learning nothing more they will only be up to that 20% proficiency level and well below the experience and proficiency level of an Advanced rider at up to 40%proficiency.

avatarhelen bridgessays:

hi ,im in the middle of my course,im 65 and been riding all my life [with breaks for children etc…] took my bike test in 1976.decided to take the course as i had lost confidence in myself . had the taster ride ,with esam ,very quickly realized i was in great need of instruction ! i have absolutely loved it so far …even if i fail the test at the end ,i feel i have gained life saving training…never to old to learn .

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