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Driving test is 80 today - time to bring it up to date, says IAM

Road safety charity says test should help younger drivers better cope with risks, and resflect 21st Century tech

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has said that the driving test – introduced 80 years ago today – needs to be overhauled to be brought up to date to improve road safety, help younger drivers address issues they may face while driving, and respond to the reality of the 21st Century.

Particular shortcomings of the current test highlighted by the road safety charity include how to drive safely at night, in poor weather, or on country roads.

IAM says that those three areas are the riskiest for drivers during the six months after passing their driving test.

While IAM’s focus is on young drivers, those areas are also of concern to cyclists, with official figures showing, for example, that rural A roads are where a disproportionate number of road traffic collisions involving bike riders take place.

In a bid to cut casualties among young people – in 2013, 191 people aged 24 and under died on Britain’s road as either motorists or vehicle passengers – IAM says the driving test should be brought up to date.

It points out that previous changes have included the incorporation from 1996 of the theory test, and a hazard perception test, introduced in 2002.

Other change it would like to see brought in include adding road safety to the National Curriculum, and allowing learner drivers onto motorways.

It says that would enable them to learn to drive on one in the company of an instructor, rather than waiting until they pass their test and heading off on their own.

IAM’s director of policy and research, Neil Greig, commented: “The driving test needs to become a much more integrated part of a graduated licensing system that picks up on best practice from around the world.

“For instance, Austria has a ‘second phase’ licensing system, where young drivers come back in the first 12 months after the test for further interventions to examine attitude changes and skills.”

He continued: “The driving test today does test a driver’s ability to a very high level, but it has fallen behind what is urgently needed today in 2015. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency by the next government.”

Mr Greig also said that the driving test should reflect the reality of the 21st Century, addressing issues such as the use of satellite navigation devices and hands-free mobile phones.

There have been calls in the past for cycle awareness to be made part of the driving test, and not just from cycling campaigners – in 2012, a poll of 600 driving instructors by the driving school RED found three quarters in favour.

RED driving school, who polled 600 instructors.

By the way, the first person to pass a driving test in the UK – paying the princely sum of seven shillings and sixpence for the privilege?

A Mr Beene from Kensington.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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