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Road safety charity says test should help younger drivers better cope with risks, and resflect 21st Century tech

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has said that the driving test – introduced 80 years ago today – needs to be overhauled to be brought up to date to improve road safety, help younger drivers address issues they may face while driving, and respond to the reality of the 21st Century.

Particular shortcomings of the current test highlighted by the road safety charity include how to drive safely at night, in poor weather, or on country roads.

IAM says that those three areas are the riskiest for drivers during the six months after passing their driving test.

While IAM’s focus is on young drivers, those areas are also of concern to cyclists, with official figures showing, for example, that rural A roads are where a disproportionate number of road traffic collisions involving bike riders take place.

In a bid to cut casualties among young people – in 2013, 191 people aged 24 and under died on Britain’s road as either motorists or vehicle passengers – IAM says the driving test should be brought up to date.

It points out that previous changes have included the incorporation from 1996 of the theory test, and a hazard perception test, introduced in 2002.

Other change it would like to see brought in include adding road safety to the National Curriculum, and allowing learner drivers onto motorways.

It says that would enable them to learn to drive on one in the company of an instructor, rather than waiting until they pass their test and heading off on their own.

IAM’s director of policy and research, Neil Greig, commented: “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.”

He continued: “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.”

Mr Greig also said that the driving test should reflect the reality of the 21st Century, addressing issues such as the use of satellite navigation devices and hands-free mobile phones.

There have been calls in the past for cycle awareness to be made part of the driving test, and not just from cycling campaigners – in 2012, a poll of 600 driving instructors by the driving school RED found three quarters in favour.

RED driving school, who polled 600 instructors.

By the way, the first person to pass a driving test in the UK – paying the princely sum of seven shillings and sixpence for the privilege?

A Mr Beene from Kensington.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

27 comments

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HarrogateSpa [514 posts] 2 years ago
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The current system is turning out too many drivers who patently have no idea how to drive around cyclists. The provisions relating to how to overtake people on bikes should be compulsory learning.

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Brooess [85 posts] 2 years ago
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We really need a psychological/attitudinal assessment included. There's plenty of people capable of driving well enough to pass a technical test but who, in certain circumstances become raging maniacs - and in those moments they're really not fit to be driving.
I never get abused and hassled on the Tube by strangers like I do when I'm riding my bike, surely we can work out why people get so angry and aggressive when they get in a car and filter them out somehow (or require them to pay for time with a therapist!)

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muppetteer [95 posts] 2 years ago
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The problem is that if you pass the driving test at 18yrs old, there isn't a compulsory retest until you're 70, unless you've committed an offence. There's no encouragement to develop good driving habits, and every opportunity to develop bad ones.

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mrmo [2096 posts] 2 years ago
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muppetteer wrote:

The problem is that if you pass the driving test at 18yrs old, there isn't a compulsory retest until you're 70, unless you've committed an offence. There's no encouragement to develop good driving habits, and every opportunity to develop bad ones.

Not even a retest at 70, just a manatory renewal form to fill out.

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Dropped [126 posts] 2 years ago
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It isn't slow old people that kill other road users, it's predominantly young men, all of whom have recently passed their test and all believe they are better drivers than absolutely everybody else. Men shouldn't be allowed to drive until they're at least 21. Admit it fellas we were all dick heads at 17 to 20ish!

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joemmo [1164 posts] 2 years ago
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Dropped wrote:

It isn't slow old people that kill other road users, it's predominantly young men, all of whom have recently passed their test and all believe they are better drivers than absolutely everybody else. Men shouldn't be allowed to drive until they're at least 21. Admit it fellas we were all dick heads at 17 to 20ish!

I don't know if you have any evidence to back up your first assertion about fatality rate but I'm inclined to agree about the danger of young male drivers. Unfortunately some of them never grow out of it and still think that willingness to take risks equates to being a good driver.

Maybe one of the things they could add to the test would be the ability to drive a car at or below 20mph. So many people seem to think this is oh so taxing.

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The Hoggs [3496 posts] 2 years ago
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I see and come across some horrendous driving at work and its generally accepted by my colleagues that a test should be done every 5 years and it should be a hell of a lot harder.

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mrmo [2096 posts] 2 years ago
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nowasps [519 posts] 2 years ago
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Dropped wrote:

It isn't slow old people that kill other road users, it's predominantly young men, all of whom have recently passed their test and all believe they are better drivers than absolutely everybody else. Men shouldn't be allowed to drive until they're at least 21. Admit it fellas we were all dick heads at 17 to 20ish!

21 for women maybe, but blokes... 25 at the very least.

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atgni [450 posts] 2 years ago
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First aid training needs refreshing every 3 years.
Driver training needs a statement signing after 53 years!

Seems quite simple to get everyone to retake the theory part every 5 or 10 years to match photo license renewal. At least that way you could argue people were up to date on the current rules.

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dazwan [323 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't think the driving test is the problem, its the way in which our roads are policed. On top of a lack of police numbers to effectively enforce the law, there is an overwhelming unwillingness to prosecute motorists as long as they aren't taking the piss and even when they do get charged the courts hand down sentences that are an absolute joke. As long as there's a situation where motorists don't fear reprisals for breaking the law there will continue to be poor standards of driving.

We need more police on our roads and we need punishments that are going to hurt people who break the law. I'd like to see fines indexed to a person's earnings, so a speeding fine for a £100k/year earner will hurt just as much as it would for a minimum wage earner and also get rid of the hardship rule, if someone already has 9 points on their license and they are still flouting the law they deserve to lose their licence, if it affects their family they should have thought about that before they chose to break the law for the nth time.

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kwi [293 posts] 2 years ago
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Totally agree with dazwan, there needs to be more incentive to not break the law.
Up to 4 (Can even be 5 with the speed awareness option.) speeding offences in a limited time before you, temporarily, lose your license?
Unfortunately the FPN being the easy option as it saves police time and relieves pressure on the courts means it is over used in my opinion.

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CXR94Di2 [1960 posts] 2 years ago
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Well my daughter and wife certainly know how to pass cyclists. I drummed it into my daughter when teaching her to drive last year. The examiner commented how well she held back and kept very wide line on her test  1

All depends on the teacher!

I am all for compulsory 5 yearly retest s

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The Hoggs [3496 posts] 2 years ago
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dazwan, i also agree with your comments, and i think every other person who uses this forum would agree. The law is already in place to hammer motorists but like you say its seldom used to its extreme. Its time that changed.

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Leodis [427 posts] 2 years ago
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It seems the people who already drive and have passed their easy test without complaint are the ones wanting others to sit a harder test at greater expense.

All they have to do is add a section for driving around vulnerable road users and job done.

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GREGJONES [298 posts] 2 years ago
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So long as motorists is equated to man on the street voter there will be no change.
I've lost count of the times politicians shout rabble rousing comments about the fuel escalator, or the war on motorists, and expect no change.

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mrmo [2096 posts] 2 years ago
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I think the "war on motorists" mentality is part of the problem, far too many drivers believe they are being persecuted, that speeding, tailgating etc isn't really a problem. Further too many drivers believe they are good drivers and it is everyone else that is the problem.

Only have to ask why it is so difficult for drivers to drive at 20mph, or that 80mph is acceptable on motorways, why so many think it is ok to park on double yellow lines, to jump red lights as they change, to block hatched junctions, to use mobile phones etc etc.

Car driving isn't seen as a privilege but as a right, the idea of hardship appeals further reinforce this. How many drivers get to 12 points in one journey? Wouldn't the fact that you got there suggest you are repeatedly breaking the law?? So why if you are so stupid to have failed to heed warnings when you received the other points should you be allowed to carry on driving??

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Saratoga [43 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

Particular shortcomings of the current test highlighted by the road safety charity include how to drive safely at night, in poor weather, or on country roads.

And driving towards a low sun?

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timac [6 posts] 2 years ago
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As most people here I ride and drive. I feel that retests every 5 years are the way to go, it wouldn't have to be a full test, there shouldn't be any need for manouvers, just general driving. The retesting on the highway code, is a necessary as so many people completely forget it as soon as they pass. Another thing that I think should be done is that people have to successfully pass all of the 'awareness' courses before they get their full license. Something that could help is having to do tests at different times of the day.

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becharjames [10 posts] 2 years ago
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I'd like to see Driver Theory Test every 5 years when you have to renew a photo style driving license. I understand everyone is able to operate their vehicle, but is everyone up to date with the current legislation for their license.

If you pass your test tomorrow you can drive a car.

If you passed your test in 1997 you can drive a car, a car with trailer, a car with caravan, 8/9 passengers in a bus (without reward) and a 7.5ton lorry (small tipper truck size) to name but a few....

The test is very simple (give up your car for 24hrs in shame for not getting 43/50. New drivers are given an hour to complete it (practise tests are available (app available too)) and it only takes 20min.

If you want to tow a caravan or trailer then maybe you can be asked a slightly more comprehensive questions as motorcyclists are requested to do for their license.

Now has anybody got bright ideas for how 'the powers that be' can do this cheaply. On-line somehow????

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willvousden [45 posts] 2 years ago
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HarrogateSpa wrote:

The current system is turning out too many drivers who patently have no idea how to drive around cyclists. The provisions relating to how to overtake people on bikes should be compulsory learning.

It's not just about bikes, though. The problem is that most people have no idea just how powerful a car is and how much harm it can cause. In most people's minds, the consequences of a collision don't extend much beyond their insurance, unless it's especially serious.

If people really understood – no, felt – the consequences of bad driving, they'd naturally be more cautious around cyclists anyway.

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willvousden [45 posts] 2 years ago
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It speaks volumes that, when I'm cycling, I feel much safer around learner drivers than I do around "experienced" drivers. If the driving test and licensing requirements are adequate, surely it should be the other way around?

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Tjuice [245 posts] 2 years ago
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I learned to ride a motorcycle a year and a half ago, 21 years after I had passed my driving test.

I found it a really helpful experience to have my roadcraft challenged and tested. Despite having a completely clean driving record (so far), and having been cycling in and around London for the past 13 years, going through a new learning process really did make me look at the world in a slightly different way and enhance my overall road ability.

Having said that, I went into the whole process with a real desire to learn, rather than just seeing it as an administrative hurdle. The challenge with a simple, compulsory abbreviated test every few years is that many people will do the minimum required to scrape through it, and will then go straight back to old habits.

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harman_mogul [303 posts] 2 years ago
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nowasps wrote:
Dropped wrote:

It isn't slow old people that kill other road users, it's predominantly young men, all of whom have recently passed their test and all believe they are better drivers than absolutely everybody else. Men shouldn't be allowed to drive until they're at least 21. Admit it fellas we were all dick heads at 17 to 20ish!

21 for women maybe, but blokes... 25 at the very least.

Young women can also be very snippy at the wheel, and many who have mastered the technical side of driving stop giving it 100% of their attention. Fortunately in London the number of young adults driving is in steep decline.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1976 posts] 2 years ago
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nowasps wrote:
Dropped wrote:

It isn't slow old people that kill other road users, it's predominantly young men, all of whom have recently passed their test and all believe they are better drivers than absolutely everybody else. Men shouldn't be allowed to drive until they're at least 21. Admit it fellas we were all dick heads at 17 to 20ish!

21 for women maybe, but blokes... 25 at the very least.

I can already hear the howls of male outrage (echoing down from a hypothetical future) if such a sex-based system were to be introduced (it would certainly be outlawed by the EU anyway). But the statistics do seem to support it.

Guys would probably particularly benefit from being obliged to cycle on the road for a few years before being allowed to drive.

There is also an issue at the other end of the age-range though, and there I don't think its gendered (or, if it is, its the other way round, possibly because all the worst male drivers have managed to drive into something bigger and more solid than themselves by then, while the women have lulled themselves into a false sense of security even as their faculties fade)

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FluffyKittenofT... [1976 posts] 2 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

Further too many drivers believe they are good drivers and it is everyone else that is the problem.

Just recently read that 80% of US drivers think they are 'above average'.

(Though depending on how you define 'average' that could still work, if 20% are absolutely out of their minds, and so bring the average standard down)

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mrmo [2096 posts] 2 years ago
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FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

I can already hear the howls of male outrage (echoing down from a hypothetical future) if such a sex-based system were to be introduced (it would certainly be outlawed by the EU anyway). But the statistics do seem to support it.

IT wouldn't be EU, just sex discrimination laws from westminster.

ECJ is NOT EU!!