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Eighty Years Of The Driving Test

By raccars Published

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Next year marks the 80th anniversary of the introduction of the driving test in the UK, thanks to Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, who created the 1934 Road Traffic Act to tackle the high number of road deaths. The first test took place in April 1935, with the first pass certificate being awarded to one Mr J Beene, at a cost of 7/6d, the equivalent of about 37p.

Testing became compulsory by June of the same year, with a core of 250 examiners dealing with between 9 and 16 tests every day. Until specialist test centres were introduced, candidates would meet instructors in public places, such as railway stations. The DVLA took over the licensing and testing system in the UK in 1965, introducing a dedicated test for automatics a few years later. By 1970, the price of a test had gone up to £1 and 15 shillings, or about £1.75 in modern money.

A dramatic rise in the popularity of motoring over the next few years saw a waiting list form for the driving test. By 1974, indicators were being installed as standard on all new cars, so performing hand signals prior to manoeuvring was phased out of the testing procedure. Otherwise, the format of the test changed very little over decades, until the introduction of the written theory test in 1996.

In 2002, the theory test went hi-tech, introducing a hazard perception element conducted via a touchscreen. In 2008, an 'eco-safe' portion was added to the test to assess how environmentally friendly a candidate's driving was.

Despite such a long testing history, those drivers who have most recently passed their test are still the riskiest group on the road, prompting concern that the current testing system is outdated and irrelevant. There are young driver schemes available, designed to help build skills and experience for those who have not yet or only recently passed their test, such as Ford's Driving Skills for Life programme.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists believes a graduated licensing system is the obvious way forward, restricting certain driving behaviours until more experience has been gained. International research has returned successful results when similar schemes have been introduced elsewhere and the idea has been on the cards in the UK, but has yet to reach fruition. In 2013, the Transport Research Laboratory reported that a graduated licence system could potentially avoid 4,471 road casualties every year in the 17-19 age group and even more overall.

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