CURRENT DRIVING TEST DEBATE

THE DRIVING TEST 1934 TO THE PRESENT TIME

 

Some motoring organisations would have us believe that the current driving test is unchanged since its introduction in 1934. Let's take a look at the facts.

In 1934 there were approximately one and a half million vehicles on the road, with approximately 7,000 people killed that year, now there are approximately twenty two million vehicles on the roads, and in 1997 there were about 3,599 deaths. This is about a 15-fold increase in the volume of traffic on our roads; and this must have an incredible effect on today's driving test compared with 1934.  For instance, nowadays at road junctions the number of observations and the level of decision making in emerging on to a main road has increased significantly; it doesn't compare with over 60 years ago and increases the likelihood of failing one's test.

Likewise, consider the more complex roundabouts, one-way systems, traffic lights with complicated signalling, cycle lanes, bus lanes and yellow box junctions that have been introduced.  There are now numerous types of pedestrian crossings encountered, namely, pelican, zebra, toucan, puffin, controlled and uncontrolled. The use of mirrors today calls for far more decisions to be made than in the past; the correct use of indicators are much more important.  There has been a vast increase in the amount of traffic signs and road markings that need to be read and acted on correctly. As well as these issues, there is also the vast number of LGV's and coaches that have increased significantly on our roads, and are part of the traffic when candidates are taking their tests. This wasn't the case so many years ago.

More recently, many driving test routes incorporate dual carriageways with speed limits of up to 70 mph; something not encountered years ago.  All the aforementioned have now made the test more comprehensive and difficult also much more searching regarding their ability. 

Far more vehicles are parked along the test routes than there used to be, and cause increased hazards that have to be safely negotiated. These hazards could include people walking between vehicles, car doors opening, cars moving off without appropriate observation; and call for decisions to be made whether to stop or proceed, taking into account any oncoming traffic. This calls for even greater driving skills from learner drivers and again this is another potential area of failure on test compared to years ago.

Children seem to be allowed out to play much younger nowadays, and are vulnerable to being involved in accidents that cause serious injuries and sometimes prove to be fatal.  It is incumbent of all drivers to anticipate potentially dangerous situations when children are around; and to pay particular attention to ice cream vans, school buses and any parked vehicle; looking under them for the presence of feet.

When I took my car test, in the late 50's there were two compulsory manoeuvres, namely 'turning in the road' and 'reverse round a corner'. In recent years, a third manoeuvre, 'the reverse park', has been added; and the test now incorporates two out of the three exercises. Many influential motoring organisations cried out for the introduction of the 'reverse park' manoeuvre; however, having done so, there is some dubiety as to whether it has improved the test; and certainly it has not produced safer drivers.

The theory test has been introduced which makes the candidates study the Highway Code more thoroughly than before; and this is a good thing.

Several years ago you would come across the friendly policeman on point duty who waved you on and you promptly stalled.  He held the other traffic up till you got your hands and feet sorted out, then gave you a nice pleasant smile (through gritted teeth) as you drove around him in leaps and bounds, just missing his podium. Those were the days!   Not like today when you stall and the driver behind you leans on the horn and thinks you can disappear down the nearest grate; whilst you're hoping they would.

I took my motorcycle test in 1957 at the age of 17 years. Since that time, the motorcycle test has changed beyond recognition; it is more in keeping with the car test of today and rightly so. 

The preceding paragraphs clearly highlight how taking one's driving test has changed since it's inception in 1934; and it will continue to do so in the future, possibly with a minor tweak here and there. The natural progression of society along with the increase in wealth, which in turn will create greater volumes of traffic and more complex road systems, in my view, automatically updates the test.

 

What do the people want who say that it needs bringing up to date?  You hear them saying, 'the test should incorporate motorway driving, night driving, driving in adverse weather conditions, and skid control.   Are these really practical situations?

Let's take a serious look at these points.

 

Being tested on motorway driving.

You may not have a motorway within 40miles of your town. Think of the cost involved for you to get tuition on the motorway, and the cost of a driving test that includes these sort of distances. You may have a dual carriageway with a 70 mph speed limit much closer to where you live, and it may have notorious junctions that you have to deal with.  These will probably include roundabouts, right turns onto and off the dual carriageway; which are potentially far more dangerous than motorway driving.  You will be a more comprehensive driver after dealing with these situations.

 

Being tested during darkness.

The cost involved would be astronomical due to having to pay for driving examiners and instructors to work unsocial hours, especially during the summer months.  Additionally, the traffic encountered through the night would be practically nil, and not representative of normal driving conditions.

 

Being tested in adverse weather conditions.

This is clearly impractical, as in this country one cannot predict the weather conditions in any month of the year.  How could approximately 1.5 million tests be programmed to take place each year in adverse weather conditions?

 

Being tested on a skidpan.   

This would be difficult to incorporate into the test; and is it really necessary?   How many times does a person get into a skid in one's driving career?  It can occur through bad driving on wet, icy or a dry road; and if you had been on a skidpan in the very early part of your driving career, I doubt whether it would be of great help to you if you did get into that situation. Despite what I have just said they are great fun!

 

 

What is the purpose of the driving test?

It is to assess whether someone is capable of driving on the road safely and unsupervised. The level of assessment is laid down by the government of the day.

Ida Goodstart and Humphry Lock-Up, both in there sixties, demonstrate to the examiner that they are safe and capable by passing the current driving test. They have probably been on dual carriageways during their driving test and can manage on them quite well, but they prefer not to use them. They may only need the car for short shopping trips and the odd drive out into the countryside. They could help with their grand children, ferrying them about; and have a much more active social life. The freedom and convenience of the motorcar can open up a new world, as most of us are aware. Should the test be made so difficult that these types of people are not able to pass the test? Where do you draw the line? Remember it is a basic driving test.

 

How many times have you heard it said that you start learning to drive after you have passed your test?  The driving test is the first rung you have to get over on the driving ladder, and there is nothing to stop you getting to the top.

As I have said earlier in the book, make it your number one hobby and really go to town on making yourself an excellent driver. It will take time and a considerable amount of effort but it will give you a lot of satisfaction when you achieve your goal.  It could also help to save lives in the future.

 

To Summarise: -

 

  Yes, I do feel the current driving test asks enough questions of the inexperienced drivers to be allowed on the road on their own, so they can achieve a higher standard in the future. As long as they realise that they have passed the basic driving test and there is room for considerable improvement in their driving skills.

 

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