Driving Test Celebrates 80th Birthday
Although we all drive different cars and have different driving styles, there is one thing that we all have in common. Every UK motorist (hopefully) has passed the dreaded driving test.
Many of us have fond memories of passing 'first time', while others treasure that final passed test after so many disappointments. Now the driving test is 80 years old, and some motoring groups are suggesting changes that they say have the potential to save the lives of hundreds of drivers - especially new and younger ones.
They are pressing the government to use the occasion of the driving test's 80th birthday to introduce reforms that will bring the driving test up to date and keep it relevant. These calls come on the back of a series of accidents, some of them fatal, involving young drivers. The RAC Foundation and Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) have come together to suggest a package of measures to tackle what they term 'carnage' on our roads. These measures include a phased introduction of the licence, which will include early periods with night curfews and a restriction on the number of young passengers. This, they say, will allow young drivers to gain confidence and experience before releasing them from restrictions. According to the RAC, government ministers have been turning a blind eye to the larger than expected number of young people being killed on UK roads.
The UK driving test was introduced on March 16, 1935, and remained largely unchanged for decades before the addition of a written theory test in 1996 and then a screen-based hazard-perception exam in 2002. The RAC and IAM, however, say that more still needs to be done. The government did have plans to introduce changes, raising the minimum age to sit the test to 18 and introducing curfews, but these were shelved in 2014 amid fears that the measures would stop young shift workers getting to work and harm the fragile economic recovery.
The official statistics do support the notion that something needs to be done to protect younger drivers. Drivers aged 17 to 19 make up just 1.5% of the driving population, but they make up 12% of those who are hurt or killed in road traffic accidents. Road traffic accidents are the biggest single killer of young British people, accounting for more deaths than alcohol and drugs. In 2013, for example, 191 young people were killed on the roads and more than 20,000 were injured. This extends to 1,037 killed and 121,000 injured in the five years between 2009 and 2013. In recent months, there has been a series of high-profile, and sadly fatal, road accidents involving teenagers.
The RAC and IAM proposals would see a 'graduated' driving licence, with a minimum of a one-year learning period during which new drivers can gain experience of trickier driving conditions, such as in winter or during darkness, before restrictions are removed. These restrictions would include curfews for night driving and a limited number of passengers. A full licence would then be issued after a two-year probation period. This, say the motoring bodies, has the potential to reduce road deaths among young people by 60%.
The IAM is also pressing for an additional measure to increase the length of the learning period required before taking the test. This will combat the increased popularity of intensive driving courses, which can see youngsters get behind the wheel for the first time and pass their tests a week later. Clearly, this allows them very little time to become comfortable with a wide variety of road conditions. IAM also wants to see learner-drivers have exposure to high-speed roads and motorways and to reduce the drink-drive limit for new drivers. They have suggested including road safety on the national curriculum and expanding the test to take into account safe use of satellite navigation systems and cradle-operated mobile phones.
With the driving test now 80 years old, it may indeed be time for a revamp.