On the eve of the driving test’s eightieth birthday, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has deemed it not fit for purpose.
The IAM claims it fails to adequately assess a driver’s abilities across the three main problematic conditions to new drivers: country roads, poor weather conditions and night driving.
But let’s rewind slightly. The driving license was first introduced with the Motor Car Act in 1903. Driving tests followed a short three decades later.
Contrary to popular belief, the driving test hasn’t stayed the same ever since.
The theory test was added in 1996 and – thankfully – computerised four years later. The hazard perception module was tacked on in November 2002. There’s also the addition of an independent driving segment, assessed manoeuvres and vehicle safety questions.
If you’ve taken the test within the last decade and a bit, you’ll know just how complex it now is.
However, despite stricter testing, road accidents remain the primary cause of death for young people in the UK. In 2013, almost 200 people under 24 were killed on the roads and a further 20,000 injured.
It’s clearly an important issue.
So what does the IAM think we should do? Director of research and policy at IAM, Neil Greig, 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.”
After Austria introduced a graduated licensing system, it experienced a significant drop in young male casualties. Perhaps this is something the UK ought to look at.
The IAM proceeds to reiterate suggestions made in its manifesto: integration of road safety into the national curriculum, a mandated minimum learning period before sitting the practical test, expanding the variety of roads driven during the test, limits on peer passenger numbers after the test is taken and a reduced drink-drive limit for young drivers.
Whether anyone listens to these recommendations remains to be seen.
New to the Road
Research conducted on behalf of road safety campaign New to the Road has revealed almost half of all road accidents in Scotland involve drivers who have had their license for less than three years. Of all drivers aged between 17 and 24 who have been involved in a crash, 20 per cent claimed that their crash could have been avoided with more driving experience. In reality, that figure is probably quite a bit higher.
Unfortunately the study’s grim findings don’t stop there. Around 60 per cent admitted to breaking the law in some sense. One in ten admitted speeding above 100 mph. Over ten per cent regularly drive without a seatbelt. Nine per cent have skipped red lights.
Insurance companies obviously have a reason for their extortionate premiums.
The campaign, which promotes safer driving to young drivers through events and practical advice, has garnered support from a wide array of organisations. Road traffic charity Brake, Kwik Fit, RED Driving School and Goodyear have all attached their names to the campaign.
Joe Burns, spokesperson for Brake, said:
“Research shows that the combination of youth and inexperience puts younger drivers at high risk. Their inexperience means that they have less ability to spot hazards, and their youth means they are particularly likely to take risks.
“That’s why we are supporting the New to the Road campaign – any steps that we can take to improve the awareness and knowledge of young drivers will be to everyone’s benefit.”
Like Joe Burns says, “any steps that we can take to improve the awareness and knowledge of young drivers will be to everyone’s benefit.” Safer roads make everyone’s lives safer, not just those of the younger drivers.
That’s why Caledonian Couriers wholeheartedly supports the great work New to the Road is doing.