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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 January 2007, 12:59 GMT
Harder driving tests considered
Learner driving sign
Young male drivers are among the most dangerous
The government is looking into the possibility of much harder driving tests to improve road safety.

Options to be considered include education in safe driving being introduced into the school curriculum, the Times reports.

Also being looked at is the Swedish system under which drivers undergo 120 hours of training before taking a test.

Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman said that too often "you first learn to pass the test and then you learn to drive".

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is looking at ways of improving road safety with a consultation likely later in the year. The Department for Transport said no firm proposals had yet been put forward.

Make the driving test more realistic and longer rather than tougher
Keith Walker, Stafford

But Mr Ladyman told the Times: "We may need to start doing driver education while young people are still at school, introducing them to the rules, dangers and responsibilities of the road at a much earlier age.

"We have developed this attitude that you first learn to pass the test and then you learn to drive.

"It's an option to have more formal training. We have to debate whether there should be some level of compulsion."

A revamped test could be one of the reforms, he said: "It may need to be expanded significantly and made much more thorough."

Studies by the Department for Transport have suggested that young men are the most successful at the test itself - but that those aged 17-20 are almost 10 times more likely to die or be seriously injured while driving compared with men aged 40-59.

'Instruction in schools'

Robin Cummins, the DSA's former chief driving examiner and now road safety consultant to the BSM driving school, said he would like to see longer tests.

"Extending the test - even by as little as five minutes - gives a far better idea of a candidate's driving ability," he said.

"The current test is pretty good as it is, but it only goes so far. We need to get the importance of road safety across to young people as soon as possible by instructing them in schools."

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "We have one of the toughest driving tests in the world and we think driving instructors offer drivers very good training.

"But we have all seen the statistics for young driver accidents and this is something that we need to take seriously and have a look at."

She went on: "We don't believe that temporary control measures, such as having a curfew on night driving for newly-passed young motorists, are the best way forward as they do not necessarily change drivers' attitudes and most revert to their original behaviour."

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How the proposals could make Britain's roads safer


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