Eighty Years of the Driving Test: Where should it go next?

March 18, 2015

On 16th March this week the driving test reached its 80th anniversary. Before this date there was no test to get behind the wheel and whilst having a test is a truly essential part of road safety, the road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists have used the occasion to call for changes to how modern learner drivers are tested, to ensure their driving skills are in line with what’s needed for today’s driving landscape.

The original compulsory driving test became law in 1935, after the Road Traffic Act was passed in 1934 and the test has been developed and changed over the years since its creation. The biggest changes to the test have all been in the most recent years. It was in 1996 when theory tests were first added and in 2002 the hazard perception examination was added. Each of these elements broadens the knowledge and awareness of the driver and requires them to learn more about the way the roads and their vehicles work.

Learning to Drive

Changing the Compulsory Driving Test

There are many elements of the driving test that the Institute of Advanced Motorists want to change. They highlight the fact that the current test has no testing of a driver’s ability to cope with country roads in a safe manner as well as missing out how they cope with driving at night and poor weather. Whilst country roads and poor weather may occur on test, they aren’t compulsory and no driving tests are taken at night. These three factors alone are amongst the biggest risks new drivers encounter in their first few months of driving and it can be a really anxious time getting used to these circumstances, when they could be well prepared for in the test.

Road accidents are one of the biggest killers of young people in the UK, with the number dying on the roads higher than that of those who die due to drink and drugs and though the overall trend for deaths on the roads is falling, 191 people aged under 24 were still killed on the roads in the UK in 2013.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists support the idea of a graduated licensing system which involves repeat tests and checks during the first few months of driving and evidence from other countries, such as Australia, shows that it really works. In Australia they have a ‘second phrase’ licensing process in place which means that drivers return for more interventions and coaching on their driving after 12 months behind the wheel. Statistics from Australia suggest that young male driver injuries have dropped by as much as a third since the introduction of the initiative, showing that it really works.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists also want learner drivers to be allowed on motorways so they can have expert tuition on this type of road, rather than guessing what to do after they’ve passed the test.

If more focused and in depth testing means safer roads then it can only be a good thing and it will be interesting to see if there are any significant changes to the driving test in the UK in coming years.

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