Half of Britain's motorists would fail a driving test retake

By David Wilkins
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:20

At first sight it looks like another of those summer silly season surveys confirming the bleedin' obvious that companies feel compelled to publish in order to grab some attention when there's no real news about - but this one deserves to be taken seriously.

An experiment organised by Kia Motors UK - the Kia Motors Driving Test Challenge - found that 50 per cent of the UK's experienced drivers would probably fail the British driving test if they were required to retake it. That's scarcely better than the 42 per cent pass rate for new drivers in the actual test.

The tests were undertaken by an approved driving instructor, Damien Burke, who assessed candidates over a standard forty minute test route according to the official Driving Standards Agency score sheet. Even worse than the headline failure rate was the proportion of experienced drivers who committed a so-called "major", a more serious motoring mistake that would lead to automatic disqualification in the real test; about half of those who failed notched up one of those. The commonest problems involved poor observation. For example, drivers often failed to use their mirrors properly or look over their shoulders to check blind spots when performing manoeuvres such as pulling away from the kerb.

Other common infractions included hesitation at junctions, speeding, following the car in front too closely and failing to signal where appropriate. Male and female drivers lived up to their gender stereotypes; men were often over-confident and used excessive speed, while women generally drove more intelligently but tended to be marked down for hesitation. Burke also noticed that experienced drivers tended to get into bad habits that wouldn't necessarily formally count against a candidate on the test but are nevertheless frowned upon, including poor anticipation, approaching junctions too quickly and coasting.

A final sobering thought; if that's how some of these drivers conduct themselves under the watchful eye of an instructor while trying to pass a test - albeit a simulated one - how on earth do they drive when they're not under that sort of scrutiny? Nobody was reported to have failed for using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel during the test, for example, although that's a common enough sight on British roads.

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