Getting a licence a tougher test

Just over half of the Bay's restricted driver licence applicants are passing the test, compared to a success rate of 81 per cent last year. The change comes as a result of a tougher test, introduced by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) in February this year.

The test to gain a restricted licence, which allows people to drive alone, was made more difficult as part of a plan to improve the safety of young drivers in New Zealand.

National figures released by the NZTA suggest the strategy is working, with younger drivers achieving higher pass rates than their more experienced counterparts. Sixteen-year-olds had the highest pass rate of 61 per cent, with those in the 70-74 age group generating a pass rate of 18 per cent. There were steadily declining levels of success as the ages got higher.

Katikati driving instructor Vin Allen was not surprised by the better performance of younger drivers .

"I think with the amount of traffic that's on the roads these days and the high-performance cars, everything seems to be more congested and happening faster.

"You've got to be more alert these days and kids, so long as they're trained properly, they'll pick it up quickly but the older people don't adapt to the modern ways so quickly."

Older drivers have often developed bad habits which were difficult to break, Mr Allen said.

"Before the [tougher test], people would have the attitude that Dad will train the teenager for three or four months and before they sit their restricted [test] send them to the instructor for two or three lessons. Now that's by the by because they've picked up so many bad habits, so it's so important to learn good habits from the beginning."

The NZTA recommends applicants clock up 120 hours of supervised driving practice before sitting the new restricted test.

The 120 hours should be focused training time, with the supervisor checking the driver's skills against a checklist, Mr Allen said. While applicants in the Bay of Plenty achieved a pass rate of 54 per cent between May and July this year, the total pass rate for the wider Waikato/Bay of Plenty region was 45 per cent since the new test began in February.

This compares to a low of 31 per cent in Northland, and a high of 54 per cent in Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman.

All of the South Island regions had higher pass rates than the North Island regions.

Nationwide, male drivers had a slightly higher pass rate (44 per cent) than females (42 per cent).

Road crashes are the single biggest killer of teenagers in New Zealand, and New Zealand's teen crash rates are among the worst in the developed world, says NZTA spokesman Stephen Town.

"That's a situation no one should accept, and New Zealanders are looking for decisive action to reduce this needless waste of young life and young potential. Raising the standard of driving required to gain a licence with harder tests is an essential part of the solution."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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