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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 June 2007, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Drivers 'need psychometric tests'
Learner driver
Psychometric tests could identify drivers with a bad attitude
Psychological assessments should become part of the UK driving test, a road safety expert has urged.

Robert Gifford, director of a road safety charity, told BBC Radio Five Live the current system failed to root out drivers prone to breaking rules.

He said psychometric tests could help to identify people with the wrong attitude to the road.

The call comes as the Driving Standards Agency carries out a review of how people learn to drive.

The government said it would keep an open mind over what changes might be brought in.

'Risk-takers'

Mr Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), said the current test assessed people's technical ability - their hand, eye and foot co-ordination.

But he said it failed to look at their psychological attitude to the road.

For example, it fails to assess if they see themselves as risk-takers, making them more likely to break the speed limit or jump a red light.

He said a psychometric assessment would help identify such faults and instructors and examiners would then be able to modify the person's behaviour.

"What one would want to do is - in addition to the multiple choice questions that there are in the theory test at the moment - we would give people a series of value judgements," he said.

What you are doing is trying to highlight the extent to which people believe certain things, how they feel about certain things and how they will generally behave towards, obviously in this case, traffic
Dr Lisa Dorn,
Cranfield University

"These could include, 'At what speed would you anticipate driving down this road?' or 'Have you ever left the traffic lights while they have been on red?'.

"We would ask people the extent to which they agree or disagree with these statements.

"It would be a way of picking up their underlying values rather than just the facts that they have at their disposal, which are a series of multiple choice questions."

Dr Lisa Dorn from Cranfield University has drawn up psychometric tests for drivers.

The tests are currently being used by Arriva buses to assess new drivers, who face a one in two chance of being involved in a collision in their first year.

Hidden checks

In the last four years, while the tests have been in use, the company has reduced fatalities involving its buses by 31%, Dr Dorn said.

"The principle is that when you administer a psychometric assessment what you are doing is trying to highlight the extent to which people believe certain things, how they feel about certain things and how they will generally behave towards, obviously in this case, traffic," she said.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Given the sheer volume of traffic on our roads today, the current driving test is nowhere near tough enough
Netuser, Plymouth

Gary Austin, former chief executive of the Driving Standards Agency, runs a driving school which uses psychometric tests to assess students.

He said they were useful in deciding how someone should be taught.

"For instance we may reveal that someone is actually quite an aggressive driver, or aggressive personality, or they find it very difficult to cope when someone perhaps cuts them up," he said.

But the idea of introducing psychometric testing was criticised by other motoring groups.

'Complex matter'

Edmund King, the RAC Foundation's executive director, said: "We accept we have to do more about young drivers who are most at risk on the roads.

"We are not opposed to new ideas but the concept of psychometric testing is not the solution and a bit of a gimmick, we would like to see prior training in education."

Paul Smith, founder of organisation Safe Speed, said road safety was a "complex matter of individual risk management".

He added: "We could write a million rules, obey them perfectly, and still fail to observe someone stepping into the road ahead."

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "The Driving Standards Agency is conducting a review of driver testing and training and when ministers have had a chance to look at that the proposals will be put out to consultation."


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