Motorbike accidents double

Following solicitors dealing with nearly double the number of road traffic accidents caused by motorcyclists since last year, Northern Ireland is set to get stricter tests for learner motorbike drivers.

Northern Ireland's environment minister Arlene Foster revealed that 24 motorcyclists and one pillion passenger have been killed so far this year, compared with 13 at the same time last year.

Ms Foster told the Assembly: "It has caused me considerable concern at the number of deaths attributable to motorcycles in this past year. Indeed the figures are quite startling for this year."

She added that following a review of road safety, her department would introduce compulsory basic training for all new motorcyclists to the Assembly Environment Committee.

"At present the department takes responsibility for training and assessing motorcycle instructors as well as maintaining a voluntary register of instructors," Ms Foster said.

"But I believe personally that voluntary register should become a compulsory scheme and I think that would have real road safety benefits."

The new off-road manoeuvres test should become mandatory in April 2008, and would include manoeuvres at high and slow speeds, including a slalom task, an obstacle and emergency braking exercises.

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