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SA, UK driving tests: Calls for upgrade

2015-01-16 17:30

NOT GOOD ENOUGH: The standard SA driving test does not prepare learners for real world conditions including high-speed driving, country roads, poor weather conditions and traffic. Image: Shutterstock

LONDON, England – The British Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and young-driver safety organisation the Under-17 Car Club trust want the UK driving test to be more relevant to the real world.

It should, they say, educate young drivers about the risks they will face as they start their driving careers.

For instance the driving test – as here in South Africa - does not include coping with country roads, poor weather or driving at night; aspects, the two organisations say, are the main risks in the first six months of solo driving.


Road crashes remain the biggest killer of young people in the UK, higher than alcohol and drugs, reports IAM. In 2013, 191 people younger than 24-years-old were killed and 20 003 injured while driving a car or motorcycle. Through 2009-13,1037 people younger than 24 were killed and 120 958 injured on UK roads - though overall the trend has been declinng.

IAM director of policy and research, Neil Greig, said: “These figures are unacceptable. 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 under which young drivers come back in the first year of licensed driving for a further three interventions to examine attitude changes and skills.”

IAM reports that young male-driver casualties have dropped by a third in Austria as a result of the initiative. Is the South African government reading this, we wonder...?


IAM calls for road-safety education to be part of the UK school curriculum, supports a 12-month minimum learning period before applicants can take the practical test and suggests that it includes higher-speed roads. IAM is also in favour of a lower drink-drive limit for new drivers.

Greig said: “The IAM also wants to see learner drivers allowed on motorways so they can learn from an expert rather than on their own after passing the test.”

The IAM’s 'Licensed to Skill' (clever, that!) report shows that “driver or rider error” is a contributory cause in 68% of all road crashes. The report also points out that while speeding, drink-driving, cellphone use, tailgating, road rage and bad weather are important factors, none is as “frequently reported” as driver error.

Greig comments: "We cannot rely only on technological advances such as black boxes to help bring down our road injury and death rate - we also need a much more integrated training system that embeds continuous improvement into each new driver’s mind."


John Peabody-Rolf, an instructor at the Under-17 Car Club, said: “The driving test as it stands does not equip young drivers to go out on the road safely. You can go out and pass your test knowing only the roads in a small local area. It doesn’t give young drivers the skills they need for life on the road. Young drivers are often unaware that if you drive into a corner too fast and brake sharply, it is the worst thing you can do – the car is already imbalanced and will behave in a way you won’t expect.”

He also pointed out the American model of young-driver tuition includes driver education as part of the school syllabus. This part of the syllabus must be passed before going on to take control of a car.

American driver tuition also covers the dangers of peer pressure and cellphone use.

Do you think the South African national driving test should be changed? What do you think government should do to decrease SA’s horrific road death figure? Email us and we’ll publish your thoughts.

Read more on:    england  |  south africa  |  road safety  |  arrive safe

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