Tag Archives: driving test

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 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…

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.


Driving experience makes women better and safer drivers

FOXY Lady Guest Blog This is a Guest Blog on behalf of the AA.

A recent study by the Driving Standards Agency has shed new light on the difficulties facing learner drivers, and highlighted the differences between the sexes when it comes to making rookie mistakes. The figures from the study have once again stirred up the age-old question of which sex is better at driving.

One of the answers that this study gives is that, after they’ve passed their tests, women become increasingly better drivers and are 20 per cent safer than men.

On average, more young women pass the theory driving test than young men. Although women are most likely to fail their tests due to manoeuvring errors such as bad reverse parking, failing to steer correctly and poor gear changes, after they have passed the test and gain more driving experience, they build more confidence and master these skills.

Men were found to be failing for losing track of the speed they were going, or simply for going too fast. This is why male drivers tend to be less safe on the road than female drivers. Learning to drive safely and monitor their speed will help keep them safe further down the line – as well as lowering the cost of car insurance when the time comes!

Have A Good Breakfast Before Your Driving Test

breakfast2An important tip for those preparing to pass their driving test is to eat a good breakfast before. Drivers who had eaten performed 30 per cent better in a driving simulation than those who hadn’t.

So if you are going to take your driving test, remember to get a good start to you day with a proper breakfast, despite the nerves.

Lack of food leads to low blood sugar which can affect the ability to concentrate, as well as bring on physical symptoms such as trembling and blurred vision, so advice recommends even if you only manage to eat something like a banana, you’ll be doing yourselves a big favour.

Although some of these tips are common sense, keeping abreast of studies like the DSA’s could have real practical value. Knowing what aspects of driving are most problematic will surely help both driving instructors and learners.

Why do more men pass the driving test first time?

The age old stereotype that men are better drivers than women is one we’ve been trying to quash for years, but there’s no denying the driving test statistics are against us. Whether it’s sheer competitive drive, testosterone or purely luck, boys are more likely to pass their driving test first time than girls.

In this article from miDrive.com we take a look at why this might be and whether or not passing the test first time really means that you’re a better driver.

The facts

Last year’s statistics from the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) show pass rates to be higher for men than women at almost every test centre in England, Scotland and Wales. Whilst the 2012 national pass rate for males, through April to September, was 50.8%, the national pass rate for females during the same time period was 44.2%.

Even more tellingly, 50.8% of males taking their test, in the UK between 2011-2012 passed their driving test first time, whilst only 44.3% females achieved the same feat.


We all know that nerves make us do silly things, and the driving test is no exception. Whether it’s testosterone, adrenaline, or an indestructible competitive streak, nerves – generally speaking – appear to affect women more than men. When nerves come into the equation, it’s very easy to allow them to take over, and that’s when mistakes can happen.

Unfortunately, pressure is an intrinsic part of the driving test. There’s no avoiding it, and coping with it can be a challenge. Finding the right balance of determination and a cool-head is something which both sexes struggle with on the driving test, but research tells us that men deal with pressure with a show of strength; facing up to challenges. Women, on the other hand, are more methodical.

Who takes more lessons?

Statistics show that men take fewer driving lessons than women, but this doesn’t necessarily make them better drivers. We all learn in our own time, and depending on how anxious a learner is when they get behind the wheel, they might have more personal hurdles to overcome.

The amount of lessons a learner driver takes also depends upon their personal circumstances. Whilst a 17 year old might have school or college to fit lessons around, a parent might struggle to fit them in around childcare arrangements. The bigger the gaps between each driving lesson, the longer you will take to pass, regardless of your on-road ability.

So, who are the better drivers?

There’s always going to be cases for both sides, but statistics point to females as safer motorists. As we all know, up until recently, young men were paying more for their insurance because of these figures, despite them being more likely to pass their test first time.

Interestingly, statistics also show that women are more likely to pass their theory test, with 63.74% of females passing in 2011/12, compared to a pass rate of 58.09% for males in the same time period. This not only shows that females’ mental attitudes to driving and knowledge of the Highway Code edges out the men’s, but it also demonstrates that they work well under a different kind of pressure. Although the practical test is hands on, the theory test tests foresight and mental processes.

It’s impossible to single out every driver’s on-road ability based on their gender, but it’s also important to note that whether a driver passed their test first time or not isn’t a good way to gauge it either. Whether men are better drivers than women is a debate which is sure to rumble on for years to come, but we hope we’ve dispelled some driving test gender myths here!

Guest blog

This guest post was written and researched by Isabelle Guarella.

Isabelle is a writer for miDrive.com; a site which helps learner drivers to find and compare local driving instructors.