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yellow card, red card

Simon Bradley

Now here's a turnup for the books. A police initiative that's aimed at bikers but that doesn't involve drop of a hat prosecutions, roadside cameras or any of the other little delights we are coming, unfairly perhaps, to associate with 'safety' schemes.

Safer Rider is the brainchild of PC Graham Owen - a long time biker and traffic officer with Thames Valley Police. Graham is the type of copper you always hope to get pulled over by. The type that looks at stopping you for doing something dodgy as a heaven sent opportunity to not just write you a ticket but perhaps give you something positive from the experience. So rather than going away £60 worse off and with a possibly worse attitude, there's a good chance that you'll go away understanding why it was stupid to do what you just did and thankful for nothing more than a roadside chewing out.

Graham saw a scheme in Tyneside that formalised this process to an extent and decided to try and apply it in the Thames Valley area. He managed to get approval from his bosses and the scheme has now gone live.

It works like this.

We all see the occasional rider who looks as though they are perhaps pushing their own limits a bit. They're not doing anything wrong, but just by looking at them you can see that perhaps the bike is too much for them or perhaps they are just trying too hard. Whatever the problem, if a rider like this gets spotted by a traffic officer, they can get pulled over and given a yellow card. This yellow card is a list of advanced riding schools in the area, and will be accompanied by a friendly chat. There is no compulsion for the rider to do anything at all - they haven't committed an offence so they are free to take or ignore the advice they receive as they choose.

Red cards come into play when an offence has been committed. Simply put, if a rider would normally have got a ticket for their riding, the officer can offer them the chance of going on a course instead of getting the points and fine. They have to pay for the course and they have to attend, but their insurance doesn't get loaded and nothing goes on their driving record. Plus there's a good chance that they might just learn something that will later save their lives. And that is the idea of this scheme - casualty reduction rather than revenue generation, and as such we should applaud it.

This scheme only relates to offences which fall under the 'careless or inconsiderate' heading. It goes without saying that if you are really pushing it then the opportunity to take the course instead of the penalty will not be offered. So don't expect to get away with normally bannable speeds, dangerous riding or riding under the influence, because you won't.

Some people will, of course, be stupid and take the fine and points instead of going on the course. I struggle to see their logic, but at least they are offered the choice. We will be going on a course later in the year to see what it is actually like, and will report back.

This scheme looks like a really good idea for those of us who may break the odd traffic law but don't take the mickey. We await the results in terms of accident reduction and the like with interest. We're also interested to see the political slant that gets put on it should the scheme have a significant effect.

You can find out more from the horse's mouth, so to speak, by visiting the scheme's web site:

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