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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 16:22 GMT
'Not a true test' of driver skill
By Paul Burnell
BBC Real Story

Skid pan test
Some instructors think the skid pan should form part of the test

The average young person passing their test has probably learned to drive in daylight on roads with a 40mph speed limit and with lessons cancelled if the highway was too icy.

Yet once they pass they are unleashed on anything from a country lane to a motorway to drive in all conditions and at any hour of the day.

Young and newly qualified drivers hold 6% of UK driving licences but are involved in 12% of all accidents annually.

One in five will have an accident within two years of binning their L plates.

Small wonder that some driving instructors feel the present test needs an overhaul.

Your rear view mirror should become the most over used part of the car
Susie Elliott, Cadence Driver Development

Sixty-four percent of instructors do not believe the UK test produces safe and competent drivers, according to a survey of 800 instructors by the BBC One's Real Story and the Driving Instructors Association (DIA).

And 87% of instructors think young drivers ought to have an intermediate licence after passing their test and should drive under a series of restrictions including a night time curfew and driving with peer group passengers.

Peter Laub, head of safety at the DIA, said: "International research has shown that it is the imposition of these restrictions, which may appear unfair to many, during the intermediate stage actually saves young lives."

Some advanced driving instructors also believe the modern driving test should incorporate elements of the system that is used to train police drivers from their manual Roadcraft.

The basis of this is the system of car control devised in the 1930s for the Metropolitan Police by the sixth Earl of Cottenham, Sir Mark Everard Pepys, a racing driver.
Check list - are you driving:
in the right place
at the right speed
in the right gear
anticipating hazards
frequently checking the mirror

Cottenham's drill ensures that a driver is always in the right place, at the right speed and in the right gear and is always anticipating potential hazards.

And as Susie Elliott of Cadence Driver Development puts it: "Your rear view mirror should become the most over used part of the car."

Cadence founder Hugh Noblett, who worked for 19 years as an advanced instructor at the Metropolitan Police Motor Driving School, devised a test for young drivers for BBC One's Real Story incorporating motorway driving, night driving and the skid pan.
Crash wreck
Young drivers are involved in 12% of accidents

"These young drivers might have spent some time on a dual carriageway but have no experience of the motorway", said Susie Elliott

"The chances are they will use their car for work or college which in the winter will become their first experience of driving in the dark.

"Your driving test may be cancelled if roads are icy or it's foggy but surely that is when you need to show how you can cope with these conditions," she said.

The DIA also believes the current Hazard Perception Test is not "fit for purpose".

Mr Laub said the test sends a dangerous message "that it is the speed of reaction that counts and this translates into young drivers jumping on the brake which could result in rear end collisions on dry roads or skids on wet road."

A Department For Transport spokesperson said: "We have one of the toughest driving tests in the world because, over the past few years, we have consistently raised its standards."

"Young drivers" - Real Story is on BBC One, Wednesday, 21 February, 1930 GMT.

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