/ Motoring

Do you think drivers should be retested?

There’s very little that can make me nervous enough for my knees to knock or hands tremble. But I was amazed by how swiftly my “teenage” nerves resurfaced when I started to retake my driving test 18 months ago.

I’d been full of confidence watching my Which? Car colleagues head out onto the streets with the examiner, but the moment I pressed the accelerator and turned the steering wheel to start my test, I had to grit my teeth to stop my limbs from violently shaking.

Although the examiner was calm and polite, I was so nervous of making a mistake in my road positioning, speed and blind-spot checking, that I actually didn’t hear the instructions he gave me as we headed towards one junction.

In spite of my nerves I passed the test. However, four of my five colleagues who also took up the challenge on that day didn’t pass.

Many drivers don’t think they’d pass a retest

So yes, I can completely understand why three million UK drivers think they’d fail a retest. This figure was worked out from a survey by the AA and Populus.

They asked almost 17,000 AA members if they thought they’d pass if they had to retake, and 11% thought they were either quite unlikely or very unlikely to pass. And it was the younger drivers who were the least confident – 15% of 18-24-year-olds thought they’d fail.

The results highlight just what an important and demanding skill driving is – most of us do it, but few of us do it well. That’s why, in spite of my own trepidation, I believe there should be regular “refresher” courses for drivers. Every five to ten years, they would help us un-learn bad habits and update us on the latest driving techniques.

When I last talked about this on Which? Conversation, quite a few of you argued that it should be compulsory for drivers to retest, like Dave:

‘The test is all we have to judge a person’s competence on the road, and I feel that everyone should undertake it every ten years to maintain the minimum standard.’

Gloria Edwards agreed:

‘Yes, drivers should be made to take retests, particularly if they break the law and if they are involved in an accident for which they are to blame.’

Although I’m behind refresher driving courses, I’m not sure we need people to retake the full driving test. But maybe you do? If you had to retake your driving test, do you think you’d pass?


Only if the test was updated to include motorway driving and did away with the whole push-pull steering wheel technique.

The test seriously needs updating, as do many of the driver skills on the road

janet says:
25 October 2011

i think that we should be asked to take the test at least every ten years as your reactions change as you age
and the pass plus is the biggest waste of time and money. i took it and not once when i was buying insurence was i asked if i had done it. however friends who have not done it say that they are not ready to go on a moterway as they have zero experience whichh is not good.


I have to disagree with you on this Janet; I can’t argue that it’s not been cost effective for you to have taken the ‘Pass Plus’ course but it will have made you a safer driver; shame on the Insurers for not recognising this. Things must have changed as when I paid for my son to have the PP course, he was able to obtain a discount from his insurer – perhaps a bit of ‘shopping around’ with some brokers would help – NOT the quote comparison sites though, you can’t talk to them!

FJRGuy says:
25 October 2011

As an ADI I think it is more likely that 11% could pass and 89% would fail. The reason for the lower confidence in the 18-24 age group is that they understand how difficult it is to pass – the rest may think it is as easy as it was when they took the test. There is no requirement in the test for the push pull steering technique – we teach it to pupils because it is far better than the arm flailing alternatives. Re-testing would have huge benefits but is a political hot potato so will never happen unless it gets brought in by the EU – then the political party of the day could claim it was another example of meddling Brussels bureaucracy while quietly agreeing and bringing it into law


I had not read your posting when I posted my message. I am glad that modern thinking on steering is less prescriptive, but I’m not sure you would approve of my technique, which sometimes varies on a long journey.

Is there evidence to support your claim that re-testing would have huge benefits? Perhaps we can benefit from studies in other countries.


I would like to see the results of a trial to find out if re-tests resulted in a better driving standard afterwards. If it proves worthwhile then there may be a case for tests every ten years.

I expect that I would fail because I do not hold the steering wheel in the prescribed fashion or do some other things according to approved practice. When I was 18 I was sufficiently quick witted to behave correctly on the day of my test, but I don’t think I could carry this off now.

A re-test could be useful be to identify drivers who are no longer confident driving in town centres or other stressful situations. However, most old drivers avoid driving in these areas.

When I learned to drive in the late 60s I thought that the Highway Code was rather dated. Now, in the 21st century, it is amazing so see that it still mentions hand signals. Apart from cyclists the only hand signals seen on modern roads are definitely not in the Highway Code. 🙂

Phil says:
25 October 2011

Hand signals were taken out of the driving test years ago but could still be useful when indicators fail because of a blown bulb say.


I remember that too from the early 60’s; there were also hand signals to indicate intended direction of progress to a police constable on traffic control duties including one for ‘straight on’!


Phil – Rather than giving hand signals if an indicator bulb blows, why not change the bulb? We are accustomed to looking for flashing indicators and not for hand signals.

Unfortunately, some manufacturers have produced cars where bulbs are very difficult to change, so perhaps there is a case for keeping the hand signals!