Today officially marks the 80th anniversary of the introduction of the driving test to the UK.
June 1st 1935 marked the first time that the driving test was made compulsory by law, where prior tests conducted in the early months of the same year were, incredibly, only optional for drivers.
The very first test lasted a mere half an hour and cost seven shillings and sixpence, which equates to roughly 38p in today’s money, with Ronald Beere becoming the first motorist to pass it.
First-ever test cost only 38p!
Back in 1934, there were only 1.5 million cars on the road, but more than 7,000 people had been killed on the roads within that year alone.
A year after the test was introduced, the number of deaths had fallen by 1,000, with the annual death toll on the roads today around 1,700, thanks to better education and safety equipment.
AA president Edmund King said: “The introduction of the compulsory driving test on June 1 1935 was a massive motoring milestone.
“For most people growing up, the great early achievements in life are learning to walk, talk, cycle, swim and drive. Learning to drive broadens our horizons and independence.”
Alongside the test, promotional films were rolled out in the mid-30s to teach drivers what to do, as well as to warn them off dangerous practices like hanging their hands out the side windows.
Since then, however, the driving test is largely unrecognisable. Although some early elements remain, the theory test was introduced in 1996 to replace questions asked while on the road.
Likewise, 2002 saw the introduction of the hazard perception test, where drivers are asked to examine video clips and identify potential risks in the road.
In 2010, another major change took place with 10-minute independent driving section added to the practical test, requiring learners to show that they can drive safely without instruction.
Transport minister Lord Ahmad said: “The driving test is a significant rite of passage, giving greater freedom and independence to generations of people across Britain.
“This country has a proud tradition of leading innovation and the driving test is just one example of us continually improving, making our roads some of the safest in the world.”
Revised test to be introduced this year
Further shake-ups are due still, with plans to abolish the three-point turn and introduce more practical manoeuvres as a testing phase is rolled out to learner drivers across the country.
If successful, the revised test will also give candidates the option to use a sat-nav during their test, and will oust former test favourites like reversing around a corner.
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