More Bay teens passing driving test

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The New Zealand Transport Agency is congratulating young drivers and their parents throughout Bay of Plenty for working hard to learn the road code as pass rates for New Zealand's computerised learner driver licence theory test continue to increase in the region.

The regional pass rate for the theory test in Bay of Plenty have reached 65 per cent this year, compared to 50 per cent when the tests were first introduced in the region in November 2009.

Regional manager access and use David Pearks said the Bay of Plenty pass rate was now on par with the current national pass rate of 67 per cent, and the region's continual improvement in pass rates showed that young drivers were showing genuine application in getting to know the road rules and learning to become safer drivers.

The Transport Agency introduced computerised theory testing for learner driver licence tests in November 2009.

The test asks 25 general and 10 class-specific questions randomly selected from a databank of over 200 questions, but unlike the old paper 'scratchie' tests which the computerised test replaced, it presents them as a random string of 35 questions.

Applicants must answer 32 out of 35 questions correctly to pass.

Transport Agency road safety director Ernst Zollner said when the computerised test was introduced in 2009 it quickly became apparent that the old paper scratch test was well past its use by date.

"The old test was more than 10 years old and all of the questions, the answers and their exact sequences were well known. It was apparent that many learner licence applicants were memorising the tests and learning by rote rather than actually studying the full road code and learning the road rules. For that reason we expected to see a drop in the pass rate in the early days of computerised testing, and we did. The overall national pass rate dropped from 77 per cent in the last six months of the old paper testing regime to less than 50 per cent when the computerised test was first rolled out in November 2009.

"Since that time we've seen the pass rate for computerised theory testing steadily increase as young drivers have gotten the message that they really need to learn the road code before sitting the test. That's great news for everyone who uses the road, because we need our newest drivers to be safe drivers who understand the road rules."

The Transport Agency also encourages young drivers who have passed the theory test and gained a learner licence to put in plenty of supervised practice and use the free resources at www.practice.co.nz to prepare for the more challenging restricted licence practical test which was introduced in February last year.

Mr Zollner said while it was pleasing that the number of fatal and serious injury crashes involving teenage drivers in New Zealand had dropped from 475 in 2008 to 257 last year, road crashes were still the single biggest killer of teenagers in New Zealand.

"With an average of one teenager killed on New Zealand roads every week in recent years our teen crash rates were still among the worst in the developed world."

"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," Mr Zollner said. "Raising the standard of driving required to gain a licence with more challenging tests is an essential part of the solution."

Mr Pearks said that while it was a concern that the number of fatal and serious injury crashes involving teenage drivers in the region had remained static in recent years, the agency hoped the improving pass rates for theory tests would lead to an overall improvement in young drivers' safety habits that will help to stop these tragic crashes from happening.

Mr Pearks said more challenging driver tests were a key element of the Government's Safer Journeys action plan to improve the safety of young drivers, and other changes introduced as part of the same package have included increasing the minimum driving age to 16, lowering the youth alcohol limit for teen drivers to zero, and encouraging teen drivers and their parents to buy the safest vehicles they can afford.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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