In 2017 the driving test had its biggest overhaul for a long time because the previous two decades had seen very little change. The test has always represented independence for young people. As the years have gone by, however, although the principle has remained the same the test has undergone changes to adapt to the changing conditions on Britain’s roads.  In December 2017 changes were made to the practical side of Great Britain’s driving test. The BBC has been looking into it.

Some of the familiar procedures such as three-point turns and reversing around corners have been removed. To adapt to changing times, a longer test was introduced with a sat-nav element to it. So with these changes in mind what has the impact been on the pass rate of a driving test in Britain?

The rate at which learners are passing the driving test remains roughly the same with figures indicating that since changes were made, the pass rate has been roughly 45.5%. These figures do mean that pass rates have dropped to under 46% for the first time since 2010. However this figure is not very far below the 2017 average pass rate of around 46.8%. Over the past 10 years the pass rate has hovered around the same mark within a percentage point or two.

• The changes to the driving test were made to give new drivers the skills that they need for a lifetime on the road and not, as had been rumoured, in some quarters, to make the driving test harder says Mark Winn the DVSA’s chief driving examiner.  He pointed out that the old style-driving test had learners driving for a lot of the time on roads considered low risk, such as around housing and industrial estates. The reason for this was because these locations offer the best opportunities to practice manoeuvring.  Manoeuvres have been changed now with the new test to better reflect the true situation on Britain’s roads.

• It was in 1997 that the theory test was separated from the practical test, with statistics indicating that changes to the theory test since 2007 have made a more significant difference than the changes made to the practical test.  From its beginning the theory test has increased from thirty to fifty questions and it since 2012 is now no longer possible to see the questions online. Some of the more innovative changes are the introduction of videos designed to test hazard perception that show different weather extremes including sleet and snow.

Where is the worst place to do your test?

Unsurprisingly maybe, London seems to be the worst place to sit your driving test with half of the test centres in the city reporting the lowest rates of pass. The BBC interviewed a driving instructor who said “with more congestion there is much more chance of encountering a challenge while you drive.  That is certainly true of London and more challenges means more likelihood of mistakes being made.”

Another driving instructor interviewed by the BBC, this time from a small rural town in East Lothian, that has some of the highest pass rates recorded, agreed that very congested areas are more challenging for inexperienced drivers but added that driving in quieter areas also had its own particular challenges saying “there is a lot of country road driving, sometimes single track, included in the test now, and in these conditions it is about anticipating what may come round the corner and the fact that there is more likelihood of animals being on the road.

It seems that Women do better in driving theory while men do better at the practical driving test.  But although men consistently show higher driving test pass rates they are the ones more likely to be involved in accidents.

Top Ten fails

  • Awareness at junctions

  • Not checking mirrors

  • Steering wheel control

  • Right turns at junctions

  • Not moving off safely

  • Car positioning

  • Accelerating too fast or stalling at start

  • Responding to a traffic light

  • Reversing control

  • Responding to traffic signage

If you have young ones taking their test, good luck!  The more OWO readers out there the better!

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