Learner drivers struggle with test

By Teuila Fuatai

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Western Bay learner drivers are performing better than many others around the country but more than 50 per cent are still failing, according to NZTA figures.

Pass rates for the new restricted test, introduced in February, show about 750 motorists in Tauranga sat the exam between February 27 and September 14 - and 46 per cent passed.

But while more than half of drivers are failing to make the grade, pass rates for the Far North and South Taranaki districts are at a lowly 35 per cent for the period respectively. Hawke's Bay learners were even worse - only 34 per cent of drivers passed.

Nationally, almost 21,000 motorists took the test during this period and 41 per cent passed.

The new test is longer and harder than the one it replaced. It now lasts 45 minutes instead of 30 and involves driving through different speed zones.

Western Bay of Plenty road policing manager Senior Sergeant Ian Campion has applauded the tougher standards. "We know that young people are over-represented in crash stats [and] so are inexperienced drivers.

"Any move to ensure that licence holders have the appropriate skills is a positive move," he said

Figures also showed about 8900 motorists in New Zealand had their exams cut short because of critical errors such as being involved in a collision, driving at excessive speed and ignoring instructions.

Nearly 350 people were from Tauranga city.

Mr Campion said the stricter test was probably a "truer test" of driving skills.

Last year's national pass rate for the previous restricted test was 81 per cent.

NZTA spokesman Andrew Knackstedt said the new test was designed to better prepare novice drivers and the organisation made no apology for that.

"New Zealand has one of the highest rates of teen road deaths in the OECD.

"We have made it very clear from the beginning that this is a more challenging test and we encourage people to ensure they are adequately prepared before sitting it."

But Mr Knackstedt said the pass rate was expected to climb gradually as people recognised the need to put in more preparation and latest figures suggested that was happening.

The pass rate has risen from 38 per cent in March to 52 per cent last month. Controversy around the current test flared after an internal New Zealand Driver Licensing memo was leaked to the media last month.

Written by national operations manager Gerard Clark, the memo said the pass rate for the current exam should be about 40 per cent.

In March - a month after the test was introduced - the pass rate plummeted to 38 per cent.

Mr Knackstedt denied the existence of set rates. "There is no target for pass or fail rates and there is no quota. There is, however, an expectation that the test will be applied with a degree of consistency around the country.

"People are getting the message that this is a harder test [and] they are putting in more preparation," he said.


By the numbers

Between February 27 and September 14:

National

20,863 drivers sat the restricted licence test

12,291 or 59 per cent failed

5938 resat

2882 failed a second time

Bay of Plenty

749 people sat the restricted licence test in Tauranga city

401 or 54 per cent failed

195 resat

67 failed a second time

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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