pounds 70m contract to run written driving test

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Details of the new written theory test for learner drivers were released yesterday as a pounds 70m contract was awarded to run the scheme.

The Driving Standards Authority announced that a newly-formed company, DriveSafe Ltd, had won the five-year contract for the written part of the driving test. From 1 July learners will have to sit the written test as well be examined on their practical driving skills.

They will have to answer 35 multiple-choice questions based on the Highway Code and road safety matters. Tests will last about 40 minutes and will include driver attitude, traffic signs, the effects of alcohol, drugs and fatigue and environmental aspects of vehicles.

The fee for the theory test is expected to be pounds 13 to pounds 15.

Drivers will have to pass the theory test before they may take the on- road practical test, except during the first six months after its introduction on 1 July, when learners may take the theory and practical test in either order to avoid a bottleneck of candidates waiting for tests.

The motoring school BSM welcomed the new test but warned that learner drivers face waits of up to four months for an in-car driving-test date before the theory test is introduced. A spokesman added: "We are also concerned that only 130 test centres are being opened, which may mean that people have to travel some distance to take the test."