The UK Driving Test reached it’s 80th year in operation on Monday and now faces calls for urgent overhaul from the IAM
Given the fact our Great British driving test is now 80 years old, it’s safe to assume that it has challenged us all at one point or another. It’s been announced this week that the IAM are now calling for an “urgent” overhaul of the test because it doesn’t cover some key hazardous situations that present themselves in the first year of driving, such as country roads, night time driving and driving in bad weather.
People often say that you are highly likely to crash your car in your first year of driving but is this down to the short comings of the Driving Test itself, or simply the natural learning curve of motoring? It’s a question that may divide opinion.
According to the IAM, road accidents are still the biggest killer of young people under 24, ahead of alcohol and drugs. Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “The driving test needs to become a much more integrated part of a graduated licensing system that picks up on best practice from around the world. For instance, Austria has a ‘second phase’ licensing system, where young drivers come back in the first 12 months after the test for further interventions to examine attitude changes and skills.” adding “This must be addressed as a matter of urgency by the next government.”
Happy 80th birthday to the British driving test system. I passed in '96, so I can drive a road roller and pull trailers without adult help.
— Jonny Smith (@Carpervert) March 16, 2015
The need for change has been expressed because although the figures for death and accidents on the road are at the lowest they have ever been, the IAM say they “remain unacceptable”. Other new introductions will be the safe use of Sat Navs and hands free mobile phone kits while driving.
Of course for those of us who already hold a UK Driving Licence, it matters not if the test is changed and adapted. Those who haven’t yet passed will now have to go through a more thorough, stringent process before they are allowed to join us on the road. This is the latest addition to the driving curriculum, on the back of other notable amendments in the last 20 years. Since 1996, new drivers have had to tackle the driving theory test before being permitted to take their driving test, which was extended in 2002 with the introduction of the hazard perception test. Should those who became licence holders prior to 1996 or in the last 20 years be concerned? Should those drivers who haven’t taken a hazard perception or improved theory test be made to to ensure an even playing field? Would this reduce the number of road accidents on our roads?
Dont know why I was worrying the theory and hazard perception was easy #Driver
— JerryInSelby (@JerryInSelby) March 5, 2015
Another question is why are country roads or bad weather not already part of the Driving Test? The Great British weather isn’t extreme but it is often wet and windy with limited visibility. Country roads are also in abundance if you live anywhere other than the centre of London and even then, an instructor will likely take a learner to an A road or two because it makes sense to do so. It might be difficult however, to plan a driving lesson so that you might have a chance to drive in extreme weather conditions such as torrential rain or an intense blizzard.
The Pass Plus scheme has also been in effect for quite some time which gives drivers the chance to take a 6 hour course to further their driving abilities if they feel they are lacking in certain areas or want a cheaper insurance premium.
It makes sense that the IAM look to Austria’s statistical improvements and aim to imitate this where possible. The issue is, are we yet again adding to the pressures and challenges that young and new drivers face? Should existing UK Driving License holders be taken off the road until they can match the driving standards that new road goers have to meet? The potential uproar and rejection to such a law could well be the reason why it has never been brought in to effect…
Either way it looks as though the Driving Test is due to become an even more comprehensive test of ability, which can only be a positive thing for matters of road safety. What are your thoughts? Do you think the test needs to be worked on? What improvements would you make if any?