The UK driving test has come under scrutiny as part of a move by the Department for Transport (DfT) to improve safety and efficiency on Britain’s roads.
Many young people in particular struggle to take the driving test, due to factors including expense, a long waiting period, and a lack of local test centres. Learner drivers are left frustrated and out of pocket. For some, this means waiting for that dream car as it sits in the dealership on trade plates, while others are left relying on public transport or lifts, which can take up valuable time and make travelling to work or having a social life difficult.
Currently, only 21% of driving tests represent a first time pass, with the majority of passes attained only after several attempts. This is an inefficient use of the examiners’ time, resulting in even longer waits for those ready to take the test, and greater expense to the taxpayer.
For some drivers, a lack of proper preparation means that while they may pass the test, they are not ready for real world driving conditions after they pass. It is not uncommon for new drivers to have an accident in the months immediately following the test pass, due to overconfidence or inexperience.
The DfT’s ambitious plan is to improve both the pass rate and the services offered with a radical rethink of the way tests are administrated and run.
The most attention grabbing part of their proposal is a cashback scheme, in which learner drivers pay a deposit before taking the test. Those who pass first time will receive their money back. By making a first time pass more desirable, the DfT hopes to improve pass rates and cut waiting times, since there will be an incentive for drivers to wait until they are fully confident of passing before applying for the test.
The move will also make the test easier to afford by splitting up the cost, while an increase in the effectiveness of the test system will save all taxpayers money, not just drivers.
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The DfT also plans to increase the accessibility of the test by offering a wider range of venues, dates and times, with evening and weekend appointments made available to help those who need to fit the test around employment or education commitments.
Young drivers and those who have recently passed the test face a number of problems, including the expense of new and used cars and the difficulty of obtaining an insurance policy. Thanks to the Department of Transport, at least the driving test itself should be less of an obstacle going forward.