As The UK Driving Test Becomes An Octogenarian, The IAM Says It Needs An Urgent Overhaul.

16th March 2015

The UK driving test ‘urgently’ needs reform if it is to remain relevant for young people driving on today’s roads, says safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

The Road Traffic Act – originally passed in 1934 – enabled the framework for compulsory driving tests to begin in the UK a year later. Since then the test has operated during WW2, the rise of the Berlin wall - the fall of the Berlin wall – and a host of other international events along the way, including the invention of colour TV and the craze of the Rubik’s cube in the 1980’s!

Learner drivers - a familiar sight on UK roads

Perhaps the most significant developments in the driving test have come into effect in the past twenty years - in 1996 a theory test was added to complement the practical element. From 2002 learner drivers also had to pass a hazard perception exam.

As it currently stands however the driving test does not include any testing of a driver’s ability to cope safely with conditions known to be risk factors especially in the first 6 months of passing the test. These include driving on country roads, in poor weather or driving at night.

Biggest Killer

Road accidents are the biggest killer of young people in the UK – higher than both alcohol and drugs which may surprise some. In 2013 alone 191 drivers under 24 were killed and over 20,000 were injured.

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.”

Young male driver casualties have dropped by a third in in Austria as a result of the initiative.

road safety education to be part of the National Curriculum,

support for a minimum learning period prior to taking the practical test,

the inclusion of high speed roads in the test itself,

support for limits on peer passenger numbers after the test is passed,

lower drink-drive limit for new drivers ( in Scotland the drink-drive limit for all drivers is the lowest in the UK)

The IAM would also like to see learner drivers allowed on motorways in order to benefit from expert training rather than learn on their own after passing the test.

Neil said: “The driving test today does test a driver’s ability to a very high level, but it has fallen behind what is urgently needed today in 2015. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency by the next government.”

He also added that the influence of new technology and driver aids- such as satellite navigation and cradle-held mobile phones - should play a part in a 21st century driving test.