Road Safety News

Experiment suggests half of ‘experienced drivers’ would pass driving test

Friday 4th December 2015

Half of drivers labelled as experienced would fail their driving test if they were asked to take it again, an experiment by Auto Express and the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has revealed.

The experiment was designed to see if the UK’s driving test, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, still meets its objective in allowing only the most competent drivers onto the road.

12 experienced drivers undertook a mini-driving test and IAM’s qualified assessors passed just 50% of participants. Insufficient  use mirrors, speeding and underuse of signals were among the errors picked up by the IAM’s assessors.

Auto Express calculates that 46 million people have taken the driving test since it was introduced in 1935. At the outset the pass rate was 63%, but today it has fallen to 47%. The volume of vehicles has risen sharply over the years and­ currently there are 35 million cars registered for use on UK roads.

IAM, says that six of the seven drivers who had undergone advanced driver training passed the test, while of the five who had no advanced tuition, just one passed.

Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief of Auto Express, said: “Driving standards has always been a hot topic and the result of our tests shows that too many people just aren’t as good at driving as they think they are.

“Although technology is making driving safer than ever, the attitude and ability of the person behind the wheel is the most important element. We always encourage people to take pride in their driving and take additional training if necessary.”

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, added: “The results of our joint experiment were very interesting. It shows that keeping your skills topped up and knowledge of the Highway Code current is crucial in making safer drivers and riders.

“Road skills cannot be allowed to lapse. Keeping your skills current through advanced tuition and other proven methods can only be a benefit to everyone who uses our roads.”


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This is merely highlighting a problem we can all believe is true. However, is it not designed to create greater interest in driving courses? No doubt by the IAM, so do we have to pay much attention to it?
Bob Craven Lancs..Space is Safer Campaigner

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

Whilst we may not have a system where drivers are mandatorily re-examined regularly for their competence to continue driving, we do at least have a system whereby those who subsequently demonstrate that they are not prepared to drive in accordance with their license or the rules, can at least be removed out of harm's way - for a while at least. Problem is there's too many of them in my view, for the authorities to keep up with them!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

"the UK’s driving test, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, still meets its objective in ALLOWING ONLY THE MOST COMPETENT DRIVERS onto the road"? I do not believe that was ever the objective, nor should it be.

"Driving is for most people a necessary part of their lives in modern society and is therefore not a privilege to be granted by over-mighty authority but a fundamental right to be denied only when absolutely necessary".

Not my words but (from memory) those of a judge only a few years ago, perhaps in my ECHR case.

I am horrified that anyone should believe otherwise - though no doubt those who do, also believe that their own exceptional abilities would qualify them to continue driving, albeit only until our entire economy collapses for lack of personal and business mobility.

Perhaps the word "Advanced" is a clue here and per the IAM or Auto Express would tell us what sort of percentage of current drivers they think would qualify as "most competent"? 10%? 20%?
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (4) | Disagree (8)

12 tested doesn't really prove anything. Are IAM assessors trained to examine at DVSA standard. Would be interesting to see a break down of the faults created and how they were graded. I would agree with this statement though "too many people just aren’t as good at driving as they think they are" and a lot of people actually say they would fail a driving test if they were to take one but a lot of that is based on the fact that they don't really understand how the driving test is marked. Suggesting that only half of experienced drivers would pass is a little misleading as is the figures 1 in 7 advanced trained failed and only 1 in 5 with no advanced training passed.
Jack Cook. Doncaster

Agree (10) | Disagree (1)

I believe creating a system that enables less skilful drivers to access the roads is short sighted and lethal, like creating a helter-skelter and sending all and sundry down it. This attitude leads to promoting autonomous vehicles and all the pitfalls that are inherent with same – failure to recognise things that humans do recognise, and can be trained to react to. Let robots build cars – not drive them. EUROCONTROL is aptly named.

Let the individual be in control after relevant training. Teach pride in accomplishment and ability to read, recognise and react to conditions as they materialise. Safer drivers make for a safer road system with less technology upon which we have become far too reliant.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

Rod is absolutely right, we should be taking a 'systems' approach to making the roads safer for everybody.

"To understand and improve the way that organisations work, we must think in systems. This means considering the interactions between the parts of the system (human, social, technical, information, political, economic and organisational) in light of system goals. There are concepts, theories and methods to help do this, but they are often not used in practice. We therefore continue to rely on outdated ways of thinking in our attempts to understand and influence how sociotechnical systems work." - Steven Shorrock, EUROCONTROL

Read more here;
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (3) | Disagree (4)

Perhaps we could stick to the issue in the report which is drivers. ie people in charge of one and often two tons of hard and relatively fast moving machinery. Maybe in view of the degree of skill that IAM have identified, we should be adjusting the road environment to be a "safe system" to accommodate those less than perfect drivers.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (9) | Disagree (8)

Remember - those that have recently passed their driving test i.e young drivers - aren't statistically as safe as more experienced drivers, which supports Duncan's point below.
Paul Biggs, Tamworth

Agree (7) | Disagree (6)

90% of what you learn about the job is learnt on the job. If experienced drivers 'fail' the test then this rather suggests that there is a difference between the driving task as imagined and the driving task as actually performed.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (9) | Disagree (7)

That's correct Hugh, which means 20% of cyclists haven't passed a practical driving/theory test, although I've no idea how many might have taken a cycling proficiency test. Not many, I guess.
Paul Biggs, Tamworth

Agree (7) | Disagree (9)

I did read that an estimated 80% of cyclists are also motorists and therefore would have passed 'any sort of test' and would also have the same knowledge of the highway code as the full-time motorists who, thanks to their unique qualification, always drive perfectly (ha ha).
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (13) | Disagree (4)

I presume that the drivers tested were volunteers, however, were they given any advance warning of the test? If they were and if they used the time and opportunity to brush up on their skills and desist, at least for a time, from bad habits then these are results to be concerned about. However if there was no warning, it may just reflect the casual attitude some people have to driving. In which case I would not be surprised. You do need to know the context of what you are measuring so that any conclusions drawn are valid. Otherwise any recommendations made on the conclusions may be wide of the mark.
Pat, Wales

Agree (13) | Disagree (1)

And yet there is no requirement for cyclists, on 2 flimsy wheels, to have passed any sort of test or to have a knowledge of the Highway Code.
Paul Biggs, Tamworth

Agree (12) | Disagree (8)