‘Test’ – there are very few enjoyable things associated with this word. From school halls to the driving test examiner’s battered old motor, it conjures images of sweaty palms and a keen awareness of being watched.
The driving test especially is a fear-inducing experience marked by strange requests (“slam the brakes on when I hit the dashboard with my clipboard”) and the promise of ultimate freedom if things go our way. But, it could take as little as 12-months after passing to lose the driving skills deemed essential for the test, and a staggering 50% of drivers believe they would fail their test if taken again today, according to a survey from the AA Driving School.
How has the driving test changed over time?
A significant proportion of drivers on the road today will have taken their test before 1996, which is when the theory test was brought in to replace the posing of questions about The Highway Code during the practical test.
The theory test tied together elements of the old Highway Code, plus new aspects such as the Green Cross Code (introduced 1978), vehicle security and first aid – all of which are likely to have been relatively alien if you’d passed before this time.
Pass rates for the theory test have tended to hover around the 50% mark since the test was shored up with additional multiple choice questions and a hazard awareness test in 2007 (before which it was around 70%). If you passed your test before 1996, this would be your first hurdle to passing again today. But, it’s not all roses for those who needed to take both theory and practical tests, as a new test structure is set to be introduced from 2017 with questions on contemporary driving factors, like the use of sat navs.
The practical test too has come a long way since testing in the modern era re-started in 1946, however the key tenets are the same. You need to be able to demonstrate that you:
- Can drive safely in different road and traffic conditions
- Show your knowledge of The Highway Code through your driving
If you were on the roads back then, you’ll remember that examiners were still not formally qualified, that pass rates were as high as 50% and that the road network was pretty much unrecognisable compared to today.
Now, you’d also need to demonstrate impeccable ability in other driving elements, such as motorway driving and the ability to read a number plate at 67-feet. Plus, your now fully-qualified examiner would set you a higher benchmark overall. But, there’re also some skills that you may have picked up that are no longer relevant, like hand signals (phased out in 1975).
And, things are set to change once more, with the driving test set to be updated in 2017. New aspects will include:
- Driving for 20 minutes as directed by a sat nav
- Bay parking (forwards) or pulling up on the right-hand side of the road to replace three-point turn
- Re-introduction of Highway Code questions during the practical test
Maintain your driving ability like you maintain your car
Your driving ability, like your car, needs maintaining over time. We all know that a car will need oil and fluids topping up, tyres re-inflating and a full MOT and service plan to keep us safe on the roads. So, maybe we should apply the same logic to our driving skills.
One massive step towards this goal was made back in 1995 with the introduction of the Pass Plus scheme. This enables anyone who’s passed their test (whether it was a month or a decade ago) to gain additional skills and a supporting qualification in areas now considered integral to modern driving, such as:
- Town driving
- All-weather driving
- Driving out of town
- Night driving
- Driving on dual carriageways
- Driving on motorways
None of us likes to think that our driving skills have become rusty. In reality, however, the combination of advancing technology, improving road networks and more stringent testing means that there will come a tipping point for most of us where – hand on heart – we may struggle to pass our test again. The best we can do is to stay alert and drive safely.
For more insightful driver tips or information on any of our new cars, contact the experts at your local Perrys dealership today.