Proposals 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 http://www.motoring.co.uk/car-news/men-beat-women-in-the-race-to-pass-their-driving-tests_67101. 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…