Category Archives: Learning to Drive

Is our driving test failing young drivers?

learner_continentaltyresFour in ten new young drivers admit they are unsafe on the road and two thirds of parents agree with them according to a new report released today.

With a revised driving test planned and the theory test now 20 years old, 47 per cent of drivers aged 17 to 24 think that they are not being taught enough about road safety.

Road accidents are the biggest killer of young people and new research reveals 800,000 young motorists think that they have an inadequate level of road safety knowledge. 

The UK research of 1,000 motorists aged 17 to 24 and 1,000 parents of young drivers as part of Continental Vision Zero, a campaign that strives for improved road safety, found that 50 per cent of young motorists would not know where to start with basics like checking their tyres.

Less than half of young road users know what the legal tyre tread limit is and only one in five have no idea what solution, such as a spare tyre, they have available in an event of a puncture.

Mark Griffiths, safety expert at Continental Tyres, said: “Every day in the UK, around nine people die or are seriously injured from a road accident that involves a young car driver. It is vital for 17 to 24 year olds to receive adequate road safety information as they learn to drive, setting them up for a lifetime of safe motoring.”

Shortcomings in the practical driving test

Changes to the practical driving test following the recent consultation include increasing the time of independent driving to 20 minutes, following directions from a sat nav during independent driving, replacing manoeuvres such as reversing around a corner with more common moves such as parking in a bay and asking one of the two vehicle safety questions (e.g. how to use the rear heated screen) while driving.

But parents are also in need of road safety education yet there is no practical driving test or educational solution for them.

When asked about a tyre’s legal tread depth limit, parents were 30 per cent less likely than their children to know the correct answer – only three in ten parents knew it is 1.6mm.

Reflecting their driver failings, one in five young motorists don’t know how to open their car bonnet and a third have no idea how to top up their screen wash.

As agreed by young drivers, the top solutions for improving their safety and that of others are better education (70 per cent), more enforcement such as harsher penalties (38 per cent) and making routine safety checks a feature of the driving test (36 per cent).


FOXY Lady Drivers Club can help motoring Mums and daughters who may be learning to drive with motoring related advice. When it comes to tyre safety we are particularly active. Why not consider joining us or buying Club membership including preferential car insurance for women from sister company FOXY Lady Insurance among other benefits?

Learning to drive – again

Claire and Kids
Claire and Kids
This blog has been written by Club member Claire Jones-Hughes who runs She raises some interesting points about refresher training for us all.

A year ago my husband passed his driving test, at the tender age of 47 years old.

While I was extremely proud of his achievement, driving around with a learner again can be quite frustrating – not least because he started to correct my tired and bad habits!

But do we ever stop learning to drive, even after passing our test?

And should we periodically have top-up driving lessons to improve our skills? 
I passed my test when I was 17 years old. Living in suburban market town where the public transport links were fair but not enough to rely on for everything, having a car was a must, especially for your social life. Me and my sixth form classmates would share lifts to the pub or gigs, even drive to college. It never occurred me not to badger my parents for driving lessons or to get a part-time job to pay for my own fuel.  
So when my husband, Andy, started to learn, I had 24 years experience behind the wheel with some substantial business miles clocked up throughout my career too. I didn’t think I had anything to learn at all! But I was wrong.

Bad driving habits  
Firstly, I don’t consider myself a risk-taking driver but it was obvious from my husband’s learner observations I had developed some bad habits. The more common ones were not having two hands on the steering wheel in the ten-to-two position. And following locally accepted lane-discipline on roundabouts instead of the hard and fast rule that anything past ‘midday’ location is technically a right turn.  
Then there was the theory test, which in my version of the driving exam was a couple of questions at the end. Invariably the test centre used the same rehash of questions, so the whole of my 6th form class traded answers after their tests just in case. When I took the most current on-line theory test, I failed! Only by 1 question but you have get 43/50 to pass.  
I think most of us would admit we’re not perfect drivers but I’m going to be blatantly honest about a few rules I’d either forgotten or just never learned properly. I have always signalled when moving out of a parked space but way too early. My husband learned you don’t need to signal until you’re actually ready to move to car into the road. Otherwise how would other drivers know you haven’t got your hazard lights on?

Same for safely moving past an obstruction on the road or parked car; if the road is clear to pass safely, signalling is not necessary (yep, I was indicator happy on that one too). 

Roundabout logic 
Lane discipline at roundabouts is based on the clock system. My husband and I had a few heated debates on this one I can tell you! Anything past midday actually counts as a right turn, therefore you should be in the right lane. Now through local knowledge, this may be different but technically you would not be wrong if you followed this rule.  
Having a learner driver in the house really did us all some good. For the first time in years I started to question some of my driving and also research road rules where I’d experience aggression from other drivers, such as who has priority driving up a hill and how to drive responsibly around cyclists. It gives you peace of mind to know you’re following the Highway Code and to ignore other impatient drivers.  
It does beg the question, why do we stop learning to drive when roads and cars can change so much during a lifetime of driving?

Perhaps a periodic theory test should be part of maintaining your licence?

I certainly think this could have a huge benefit for our roads and the environment.

FOXY comment

Thank you Claire for raising this important issue about driver training.

The current situation is unsatisfactory because we are leaving motorists on their own for too long after passing their driving test. Yes, there should be compulsory refresher training, but how to do this.

It’s all very well for the Government to expect us to keep up to date with the Highway Code but there’s no easy way to see what’s changed since we last read it. And it’s not the most riveting read despite our needing to cope with increasingly congested roads, changing speed limits, new road signs and the added distraction of onboard car and personal technology.

Even if there were the sort of refresher training courses we can envisage, I can’t see a ground swell of motorists queuing to pay for this unless it was mandated (or paid for?) by an employer or an insurer.

Certainly there is an unfulfilled demand for added female driver knowledge and education providing this isn’t patronising, male dominated or as expensive as some options appear to be.

And yet, providing the right financial model can be found, this is an opportunity for driver training to become socially-enjoyable events if organised on a gender basis. Where we can all be honest about any personal motoring weaknesses in like-minded company. In my experience, women are more likely to suffer (or admit to) a loss of driver confidence and there is a definite demand among us to maintain our own cars in between annual garage visits.

Whilst this may be but a part of the refresher training solution, local garage evenings often help. We promote approved garage events that teach car maintenance and associated matters, at our website, as and when we are involved.

And please visit the IAM Roadsmart website to see which of their new courses might fit the bill in future. Maybe your employer or local association group might want to organise a company scheme?


Driving test gender issues

AA_driving school femaleProposals from the Department for Transport are intended to improve the number of learner drivers passing their driving test by making sure they’re properly prepared for this, including motorway driving experience as a new component, providing this is with an approved instructor.

So far, so good.

As things stand, 79% of new drivers are failing their first driving test. At £62 a time, this is an expensive exercise when you might need more than two attempts.

One measure the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is looking at is to levy a deposit which can be returned to the learner driver if they pass, encouraging them to take their test when they are ready.

I suspect the key word in that last sentence is ‘if’ as otherwise it would say ‘when’. This means that nobody who fails gets a refund of their driving lesson fee of course, it’s just that too many motorists are failing their first test by taking it too soon.

So is the test too hard? Are today’s learner drivers less able than we were? Or is it simply a case of there being too many wasted examination/test attempts preventing properly prepared drivers getting theirs when they’re ready?

Let’s see if we can unpick this and uncover anything new.

Facts and conjecture

1. Novice male drivers tend to be more confident than their female equivalent (at all ages).

2. Women are marginally better than men at the theory test (costing an extra £23).

3. Too many novice drivers apply for their test before they start their lessons.

4. Only one in five drivers pass their first driving test. That’s significant. I imagine these are likely to be a combination of the confident/dexterous males and the cautious (savvy?) females who wait longer to take their first test.

5. 113,066 male drivers were involved in accidents compared with 69,245 female drivers (2014 stats). And accidents involving young men ‘tend to be more catastrophic and to involve other people’ the AA confirms. Clearly novice drivers WILL have accidents so this gender imbalance looks like young men are driving too early ie without enough driver education?

6. Too many young drivers are clearly judged to be ready for their test before they are.

7. Some women think there is a gender bias here – to do with the gender of the examiner perhaps?

8. 80% of instructors are male (and probably a similar percentage of examiners) – this can be a fear factor/reassurance for many females.

9. There will be a fear factor of the practical test/examination itself.

NB: A gender difference is seen in schools where more boys tend to pass exams but more girls do better in the term/course work. Like the practical/theory driving test perhaps?

What’s to be done?

These are profound issues because of the safety implications, not just the cost.

If it were up to me I’d want to look at the following…

10. Allow/encourage young drivers to start learning to drive MUCH earlier, within a safe and secure environment. This is how you get the safety message through, by MORE driver education not LESS. Put it on the school curriculum even – this will save lives when combined with essential learning (and without any early ability to drive on public roads).

11. Look at test availability – is this improved if we stop speculative bookings? This needs to be more flexible.

12. Authorise ADI (Approved Driving Instructors) to confirm test readiness

13. Publish Driving Instructor pass rates – maybe some aren’t good enough?

14. Recruit more female instructors/examiners.

15. Consider restricting novice drivers (under 25) from carrying passengers (under 25) for 2 years after they pass the test??

16. Fit black boxes to cars novice drivers drive without exception (ie all insurers) and deal harshly/immediately with ‘red’ drives.

17. Review and follow up all young driver accidents with appropriate driver education.

Finally let’s discourage competitive gender headlines like this otherwise excellent article Because passing your driving test mustn’t be seen to be a race if this then means you kill someone because you passed before you could drive safely. There are no winners here, until we turn out demonstrably safer drivers onto our roads.


PS: Needless to say, the motorway driving element of the test is welcome and long overdue. But more road deaths/serious accidents occur on rural roads…

What’s wrong with the driving test for women?

drove_too_closeWhilst the age old debate rages over which gender is the better at driving, statistics from the DVSA (Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency) confirm that women drivers beat men at the theory test, with 54 per cent of females (of all ages) passing this compared to 48 per cent of all males.

But after adding the practical test into this, men of all ages are much more likely to pass that driving test on the first occasion…

Interestingly nearly 80% of all driving test examiners are male ie 1,395 vs 381 female test examiners so maybe gender disparity here might be why women are more likely to fail their first driving test? Through nerves associated with a male examiner perceived to be critical of her??

And why men often think this makes them better drivers than women whereas the accident statistics confirm that in 2014, 113,066 male drivers were involved in accidents compared with 69,245 female drivers. Moreover, those accidents involving young men ‘tend to be more catastrophic and to involve other people’ according to the AA.

We’re not just talking about 17 year olds either, where 7% of females take longer to pass their test than boys. It seems that this is also true of older women with a staggering 50% taking longer to pass their test compared to their male equivalent learning to drive in their 50s.

Older women learning to drive

I know several ‘older’ ladies who needed to drive after a divorce or bereavement. Their husband/partner had done all the driving previously and the women now needed a car to maintain their independence. They were all, without exception, extremely nervous at the prospect of driving.

I’m sure it’s harder to learn at that age so I’d expect them to have needed extra lessons to settle their nerves first then to prepare for the driving test. But I also imagine they would have taken this seriously and become safer drivers as a result of their caution.

So what is going on here? And why are fewer females making the driving test grade compared to their male peers?

Women pay more for being safer drivers

The EU Gender Directive requires young women drivers to pay the same for their car insurance as riskier boy racers. And, as learner drivers, we pay more for our driving lessons than men (ie we take more lessons) costing as much as £300 let’s say, in terms of extra lessons and a second test.

Whereas young males who pass their practical driving test first time around, likely based on natural confidence and coordination skills (but who are more likely to be involved in serious accidents) pay less than their risk suggests they should.

Is this fair?

Exceptions apply in both gender camps of course. I passed my test the first time but was a rubbish driver at the time. Whereas my husband (who tells me he is and has always been a superior driver!) failed his first test. And I can understand why…

What women think about their gender and the driving test

A total of 37 per cent of women claim they are the one who is more careful, while 13 per cent believe that applies to their (male) partner.

The driving test research has provoked a strong reaction with some women claiming television shows such as Top Gear are promoting casual sexism due to their male-orientated approach.

Angela Clarke, 35, who passed her driving test third time when she was 18, thought there must be something wrong with the test.

She told The Guardian: ‘There’s no other way there could be such a bias towards one gender passing. The casual sexism that women are worse drivers than men is pretty prevalent. If you look at the laddish approach of shows such as Top Gear, you have to recognise that it’s part of our culture.’

Unsurprisingly, a spokesman for the DVSA said all candidates are assessed to the same level regardless of gender.

What can be done?

I’d like to see the following improvements to the current test regine.

1/ The driving test needs to include motorways, night-time driving, heavy traffic and country roads as compulsory ingredients.

2/ The DVSA needs to recruit more female examiners and offer women drivers one ahead of men to see if this has a steadying effect on nerves that might mean more pass than fail. Much as a new car test drive can be intimidating with an unknown (and often perceived to be critical) man in the car, driving in an unfamiliar area, many women would feel much more at ease were they tested by a female.

3/ Perhaps nervous older ladies might prefer a female driving instructor to take them through the learning experience. I certainly would now. Learning to drive should be an enjoyable not terrifying process and female instructors might better understand female fears than some males.

4/ Finally, if more lessons make women safer drivers than men perhaps there is a case for young men to have more lessons to pass the test. Maybe there needs to be a minimum number of professional driving lessons taken? If only to teach young drivers about testosterone and why the biggest killer of young teenage girls (on UK roads) is their driver boyfriends.


Foxes learning to drive in London

FOXESGrammy Award winning artist, Foxes, has teamed up with Citroën and will be learning to drive in the stylish New Citroën C1 city car.

I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of her before but that’s because there’s a c30 year age gap between us I suspect, and I have a son not a daughter who might keep me more up to date here.

Her driving instructor is celebrity-inclined Noel Gaughan who has taught Adele and Niall Horan from One Direction (who I have heard of…)!

Foxes, whose real name is Louisa Rose Allen, is a good judge of cars and tells us why it’s a Citroen for her…

“I’m really excited to learn to drive and I love the look of the C1. Driving is a life skill that will open up a whole new world of independence for me. I live in London so a city car is exactly what I need. I’m nervous about sitting my test, but I’m getting lots of support and everyone’s really excited to finally see me driving.”

The intensive driving course marks the start of an exciting time for Foxes, as she also prepares to release the first single from the highly anticipated follow-up to her debut album ‘Glorious’.

Foxes has a diverse portfolio that includes appearances on the Radio 1 Live Lounge and BBC’s Doctor Who, as well as musical collaborations with Rudimental, Fall Out Boy and Giorgio Moroder, along with a European tour supporting Pharrell Williams on his ‘Dear Girl’ tour in 2014.

And whilst I doubt she’ll be counting the pennies by the sound of things, if YOU wanted to buy a C1 at a great deal you can find out which C1s are part of our 10% discount scheme for Club members