British learner drivers are burning more than £60 million a year on failed attempts to gain their licence. There is still a strong desire to achieve independence behind the wheel but figures for the year 2016 show that of the students who sat the 1.2 million practical tests last year only 47 per cent passed. With each test costing £62 that’s more the £41m down the drain. Attempts at the theory test cost less, at £23 a time, but with 51 per cent of applicants failing that as well, that’s another £22m wasted on failed attempts.
Shockingly, the theory test pass rate has fallen from 66 per cent a decade ago to just 49 per cent last year and there is a warning that the practical test could see a similar dip when it is changed this December. The theory test has undergone a series of changes since 2007, with the introduction of more questions, a case study section, and the stopping of new test questions being published online. These changes have been blamed for the sharp fall in pass rates and some observers are predicting that the changes to the practical test could have a similar effect. From December the independent driving section of the test is to double to 20 minutes and learners will have to show they can use a sat nav safely and demonstrate knowledge of vehicle safety through answering questions and demonstrating controls.
Simon Bayley of Moneybarn, which analysed the costs, warned: “This highlights an interesting trend in theory tests following changes, which could provide an indication of what we can expect from December. These changes should provide new drivers with the skills and awareness to keep themselves and others safe as transport in the UK goes through a period of transition.” However, driving schools insist that students and instructors have had plenty of time to prepare for the changes and there is likely to be little impact on current pass rates. Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driving School commented: “The changes to the driving test have been announced well in advance and certainly in time for any current learners to be taught the new aspects of the test. “The changes represent the ‘real world’ as for example, these days drivers typically use sat navs and tend to forward park in bays. Ensuring the test reflects reality means that driving instructors too must reflect reality in what they teach.
“In our view, there is absolutely no reason for the pass rate to fall even for a period of time provided that lessons are delivered by a competent and up-to-date instructor. If the pass rate falls after the new test is introduced, the fault will rest with the instructors not with the learners or the DVSA. “RED customers will be well prepared and we expect no variation in our pass rate as a result of this change.”