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The first car and driving licences were introduced in Great Britain in 1903 by the Motor Car Act as a means of identifying vehicles and their owners. All cars had to be registered and licensed annually at the cost of 20 shillings (the equivalent of £1). It wasn't until 1 June 1935 however that a compulsory driving test was introduced.

Government figures reveal that over 7000 people were killed on Britain's roads in 1935, despite there being just 2.4 million vehicles in use at that time. The Highway Code, issued 5 years earlier, aimed to introduce car owners to the concept of sharing the road with other drivers. By that time there were around 3 million cars on the road so some form of regulation was required.

The driving test is credited with helping to save thousands of lives over the last 80 years. Since then an estimated 46 million people have passed this test and today 1700 are killed on the roads every year – that's with 35 million cars on the road.

AA president Edmund King said: “The introduction of the compulsory driving test was a massive motoring milestone. Learning to drive broadens our horizons and independence."

Learning to drive and taking the test gives drivers the skills they need to drive safely, and contributes to Great Britain's roads being among the safest in the world.

This year, computer-generated imagery replaced video clips in the hazard-perception test. In total, around 50 million tests have been taken in Britain. Yesterday the RAC said the 80th anniversary should be celebrated by reforms.

Ministers, it said, were turning a “blind eye to the carnage" and the “disproportionate number of young people killed soon after they get their licences".


By Tracey McBain