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Learner driver failed theory test 60 times. How many time is too many?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/articles/c8978vy2wnjo

Quote:

A learner driver spent nearly £1,400 and 60 hours in trying to pass their driving theory test.

The candidate, from Redditch, notched up the highest number of unsuccessful attempts made in 2023 for one person, before finally passing the test.

New government figures also show a total of 93,204 UK practical driving tests taken in the year to the end of March, were at least a candidate's sixth attempt to pass.

Notwithstanding the fact this appears to be a rehash of an article from December 2023 - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-67610152 - surely there has to be a point someone with authority says "repetition doesn't make you better, it just shows you're not competent enough to be allowed behind the wheel"?

Now, I don't drive, but I appreciate that nervousness can affect someone's ability to take any examination, however it worries me that people who need anywhere near 60 attempts to complete the part of a driving test that doesn't even involve the potential stresses of actually driving are allowed to be in charge of a motor vehicle.

Quote:

New government figures also show a total of 93,204 UK practical driving tests taken in the year to the end of March, were at least a candidate's sixth attempt to pass.

The success rate for those taking at least their sixth test was 41.4%, compared with an average pass rate across all tests of 47.9%.

Imagine how small that percentage would be if those who get banned and those who show by their actions that they shouldn't without getting banned were subtracted from the figure. How many would counted as 'passes' then?

If you're new please join in and if you have questions pop them below and the forum regulars will answer as best we can.

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22 comments

Avatar
LordSandwich | 2 weeks ago
1 like

I honestly don't understand how anyone can fail the theory test; it's incredibly easy! I passed it twice because the first one expired. The practical test, on the other hand... 😅

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S.E. | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

As a kid (not in the UK) I was told that if you failed 3 times, you had to consult a psychiatrist before you could get the green light for more attempts... I didn't check if that was true or not at that time, I believe it's not the case anymore.

On the other hand, my driving instructor - much older than me, told me that when he was young there was no driving test at all, you just went to the office, paid a small fee, and walked away with your license.

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Rendel Harris replied to S.E. | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

Up to 1934 in the UK all you had to do for a driving licence was pay the five shilling fee. I lived in Brussels from the ages of five to nine and there was no practical driving test (it was introduced the year we left, 1977), just a very simple written exam of the "does a red light mean stop or go?" variety. The effect of this was pretty clear from the standard of driving in Belgium at the time, which was about the worst I've seen anywhere (I've been back since and it has improved).

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BikingBud | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Not quite sure I fully grasp the message as it is another poorly worded and constructed piece of clickbait but if they fail three times there should be compulsory interval of 12 months before they can reapply. I might unclutter the system a little.

Whilst it is likely that at some point in the future someone might fluke it and not have any errors, their persistent failures would indicate that they do not really get it and should not therefore be granted the privilege of a driving license.

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Gimpl | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Appreciate that the question is asked in general however how uncharitable !

The candidate may well prove to be an excellent driver during their practical driving and test but have difficulty with written exams, be neuro diverse in some way.

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chrisonabike replied to Gimpl | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

All well and inclusive but we don't know why they failed.  And safe driving is far more than just the "motor skills" of controlling a vehicle.  It must be backed with others for safety.  Including understanding the behaviour of other road users, symbol recognition et

The theory test has more than just written stuff - it's not an essay.  They may have failed the hazard perception test (also part of "theory test" in UK).  I don't think failing that makes you an "excellent driver".  Even though it's not exactly the same as driving.

Adaptions for people are possible though you need to be able to read.

 Reading may not be listed as essential (we don't test the English skills of foreign drivers IIRC) but you're unlikely to pass if you struggle (the "read the numberplate" test for vision for one).  Fair enough, I'd say, given the amount of important text we have eg. on warning signs.

For the record I think we'd all benefit if we made private mobility options beyond the car much more attractive and inclusive.  I also think we have set the skill / concentration bar for driving too low - or rather there's no incentive to maintain or improve ability.

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LordSandwich replied to chrisonabike | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

chrisonabike wrote:

 They may have failed the hazard perception test (also part of "theory test" in UK). 

This is almost certainly the reason! I remember practicing the stupid Hazard perception test, and the instructions were to click whenever you see a potential hazard. However, if you actually do that, it'll accuse you of cheating because everything is a potential hazard. The real secret is to click at the moment you see a developing hazard.

An example of a potential hazard would be children playing with a football by the side of the road. This is a potential hazard, because nothing has happened yet that would be an actual hazard. When you see the ball start to roll toward the road, that's when you click! Because you just know that the kids are going to come running after it!

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Cayo replied to Gimpl | 2 weeks ago
3 likes
Gimpl wrote:

The candidate may well prove to be an excellent driver during their practical driving and test but have difficulty with written exams, be neuro diverse in some way.

Which is why I qualified my original post with "I appreciate that nervousness can affect someone's ability to take any examination", even if your example is slightly different from that qualification. Still, the number of people who require a large number of retakes still alarms me.

I very much like the idea of a tiered setup, having to 'step down' to a lower level if you get penalised. Besides, it strikes me as ridiculous you could learn in a barely MOT-worthy old Micra, pass a test in a Mitsubishi Mirage, and obtain a licence to drive a Bugatti Veyron before too long. And forgive my naivety (being, as I say, a non-driver), but licences seem to be based on weight rather than the power output of the vehicle (or a combination of both) which seems somewhat incomplete way to categories a vehicle's danger to other road users' safety.

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Mr Hoopdriver | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

I wonder if they'll continue to show as much dogged determination to maintaining their skills once (if) they manage to pass the practical test and actually get out on the roads with the rest of us.

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chrisonabike replied to Mr Hoopdriver | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

According to the regulations, the answer can be "none whatsoever".

Becoming a "licenced driver" is exactly a rite-of-passage: once per lifetime.  Unless you manage to get a conviction and driving ban (and points don't need to mean prizes either).

No expectation we'll see it but the whole "graduated licencing" thing not only sounds logical but (for young folks) has some research behind it.

Though I'd graduate it further...

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mdavidford | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Maths question for anyone who can be bothered:

Given that the theory test is multiple choice, with four choices per question, and a pass mark of 86%

  • What are the odds of you passing in 60 attempts if you just pick answers at random?
  • What kind of error rate would give you a better than evens chance of passing in 60 attempts?

Maybe if you fail, the pass mark for each subsequent attempt should be increased a little.

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Jetmans Dad replied to mdavidford | 2 weeks ago
1 like

mdavidford wrote:

Maths question for anyone who can be bothered:

Given that the theory test is multiple choice, with four choices per question, and a pass mark of 86%

  • What are the odds of you passing in 60 attempts if you just pick answers at random?
  • What kind of error rate would give you a better than evens chance of passing in 60 attempts?

Maybe if you fail, the pass mark for each subsequent attempt should be increased a little.

So, on your third attempt ... 110% in order to pass. I confess that appeals. 

As for the rest of your question. Not high. There is a reason the infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters are given infinite time to come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. 

Given an infinite number of attempts, you would, at some point, reach the pass mark ... possibly even on your first attempt. 

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mark1a replied to mdavidford | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

mdavidford wrote:

Maths question for anyone who can be bothered:

Given that the theory test is multiple choice, with four choices per question, and a pass mark of 86%​

According to the binomial distribution calculator at WolframAlpha, the probability of getting 43 out of 50 in a single test with 1/4 chance on each question is 1.819e-19, I think I'd go with actually knowing the answers to the questions.

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wtjs replied to mark1a | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

According to the binomial distribution calculator at WolframAlpha, the probability of getting 43 out of 50 in a single test with 1/4 chance on each question is 1.819e-19
Insert '43 or more out of 50' and '1.81884 x 10^-19'

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OnYerBike replied to mdavidford | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

mdavidford wrote:

 

  • What kind of error rate would give you a better than evens chance of passing in 60 attempts?

If you know the answer to 35 questions and then completely guess the remaining 15, the chance of getting at least 8 (in order to pass) is 1.7%, which would mean if you did that 60 times, you would have a 65% chance of passing at least once. 

Obviously the reality is it won't be a dichotomy between "know" and "complete guess" - some you might know, others you might narrow down to two or three options etc. 

It won't be compeltely accurate as the probability of getting a question right will vary from question-to-question and test-to-test, but we can still use the binomial distribution to consider statistics, but by considering the probability of answering each question correctly (p_success). If you're perfectly knowledgeable, you will answer every question correctly (p_success = 1), and so are certain to pass. If you are perfectly ignorant (completely guessing i.e. p_success = 0.25), you will basically never pass (as per mark1a's calculation). You need a p_success of 0.85 in order to have a >50% chance of passing first time.

Assuming p_success remains constant, in order to have a >50% chance of passing at least once in 60 test sitting, your p_success needs to be above 0.71. 

In other words, on an "average" test sitting, you could expect to score about 36/50 - a definite fail. But keep doing that enough times, without actually learning anything new, and just by chance you will eventually pass.

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mdavidford replied to OnYerBike | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

Blimey - I didn't expect that anyone would actually bother. And a somewhat disturbing answer. Especially given that, unless it's changed significantly since I did it, you can usually, unless you're completely lacking in common sense, discard at least one of the answers for being completely implausible*, which would mean you could be guessing even more of the time.

[* "Travelling at speed on a dual carriageway, you see brake lights coming on on the cars in front of you - what should you do?

a) Jam your foot down hard on the accelerator...]

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ktache replied to mdavidford | 2 weeks ago
7 likes

Can't be the answer to that one, that's "when you see an amber light...?"

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mattw | 2 weeks ago
5 likes

Good comment, and a good question to raise.

One thing we could consider is making this part of the needed Graduated Licensing scheme, as proposed by groups such as Brake. The idea seems to be one of those which may be able to get political traction at present.

"You received X marks", so yo uare entitled to drive Y category vehicles in Z circumstances.

eg Quadricycles capable of up to 28mph in daylight hours only.

One of my suggestions for Graduated Licences for starting-out drivers to reduce the KSIs on themselves and others, is that it restricte for 3 years or up to age 21, which can be reduced to 2 years or age 20 by more advanced training.

I'd suggest a similar thing for less competent elderly drivers as a way of easing them out.

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wycombewheeler replied to mattw | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

mattw wrote:

Good comment, and a good question to raise.

One thing we could consider is making this part of the needed Graduated Licensing scheme, as proposed by groups such as Brake. The idea seems to be one of those which may be able to get political traction at present.

"You received X marks", so yo uare entitled to drive Y category vehicles in Z circumstances.

eg Quadricycles capable of up to 28mph in daylight hours only.

One of my suggestions for Graduated Licences for starting-out drivers to reduce the KSIs on themselves and others, is that it restricte for 3 years or up to age 21, which can be reduced to 2 years or age 20 by more advanced training.

I'd suggest a similar thing for less competent elderly drivers as a way of easing them out.

so anyone that racks up points can see their vehicloe classification going down until they can only use a mobility scooter?

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mattw replied to wycombewheeler | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

It's a thought, isn't it?

Imagine if the first of her X (X = 3 or 5 or something?) drink driving offences for Katie Price had restricted her to a Citroen Ami or a Renault Twizy for three or four years after she got her driving license back, and she had to do an extended test to get *that* or use of a full sized car after that period.

I'd more go for pedal car than mobility scooter devil, as a mobility scooter is a liberation for mobility impaired people, and has a positive image.

We need to talk about these things as publicly and thoughtfully as we can, and in public fora, to create the opportunity for different policy to be *conceivable* to the public (and political) mind.

It's like all the other stuff such as eg contraflow cycling on one-way streets - just not entering the public mind. Totally normal and accepted as safe in Cambridge for about 30 years, and now on every one way street. But suggest it in Macclesfield, Mansfield or Maidstone, and the entire town will have a coronary.

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

Very much on-board with this.

The tricky thing is getting people to see the obvious:
a) the whole system is set up to facilitate mass motoring and this has made "licencing" a rite of passage, driving a "right" that at best the authorities can only request be temporarily suspended (and if you ignore them , they'll ask you again...)
b) this has many consequences for those who can't, including the young (and older people who probably should stop but "have to drive")
c) this is not the only way it could be!

The issue for the UK is just how much we have favoured motoring over all other modes (inc. public transport) and also "expect" that people will be able to drive.  So if they look at alternatives in many parts of the UK it will seem that - even for short distances - they do indeed have to drive.

It's also one part of why driving bans are seen as very severe / "cruel and unusual punishment".

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Cayo replied to chrisonabike | 2 weeks ago
5 likes
chrisonabike wrote:

"have to drive"

And that attitude is ensconced in society as you say. I am discovering that from a fresh angle for me, as I'm currently house hunting. All the listings are at pains to say how easy it is to access the major road arteries whilst all I want to know is how easy it is to walk or cycle to the best shopping locations. But cycle routes and whether you can plonk a bike store on your residents parking space aren't a consideration for the estate agents.

Cars rule, UK! (sigh).

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