/ Motoring

Is the driving test starting to show its age?

The compulsory driving test celebrates its 80th birthday today. When introduced it led to an immediate drop in the number of road deaths. But is it still a good test for how safe you are to drive on today’s busy roads?

Even though I took my driving test (or rather tests) nearly 20 years ago, I still remember vividly all the myths about how to pass, the easiest test centres, the scariest examiners.

I failed twice for reasons including most embarrassingly ‘failing to make sufficient progress’, and was astonished third time round when the examiner looked up from his clipboard and grudgingly admitted I’d passed.

So I can drive on my own now?

Relief soon gave way to a feeling of ‘hang on, you’re really letting me out on the road on my own now’? Even 20 years ago, it seemed a huge jump between the test and what would happen on the open road. Sure enough, my first solo effort lasted just long enough to reverse into a neighbour’s car – while trying to pull out from in front of our house. A £200 lesson.

But if it seemed an enormous jump from test to real-life then, what about now? The roads seem much busier and other drivers more impatient – does the test really prepare you for this?

What changes should there be to the driving test?

In an attempt to make the test better prepare drivers for today’s roads, there have been calls for driving on motorways and driving at night to be included.

Interestingly, there is currently a trial ongoing at 20 test stations across the UK where the learner is asked to follow sat nav instructions for part of the test.

What was the effect of the driving test?

When the Road Traffic Act was passed in 1934, paving the way for compulsory tests to be introduced a year later, there were just 1.5m cars in use but more than 7,000 people were killed on Britain’s roads. Within a year, the number of deaths had tumbled to 1,000. The annual death toll now is around 1,700 – with about 35m cars on the road.

What changes would you like to see to the driving test? What are your memories of taking it?

dave says:
6 June 2015

One person mentioned drivers knowing how to do basic checks and also know where fliud resovoirs were. Drivers of both sexes should know where the spare tyre and tools to change a tyre. Unfortunately this does not help a person like myself had a puncture last week, both myself and a good samaritan could not get the wheel nuts off because when serviced the mechanic had tightened them that tight it needed a garage to get them off


I suspect that your friend had a problem with removing the wheel nuts (often wheel bolts these days) was simply because they had rusted or stuck since they were installed. My solution – learned from my father – is to put a very small amount of grease on the threads (but NOT where the nut or bolt contacts the wheel). Some say you must never do this but I’ve never had a single nut or bolt come loose and I don’t know anyone who has. A trace of grease on the back of alloy wheels where they contact the hub will prevent them sticking to the hubs, so that you don’t have to fight with the wheel when the car is supported only by a jack.



Applying part of the GDL system to license holders from other countries might be considered.