Kim Fulton is a NZME. News Service regional reporter

Hawke's Bay driving tests cut short because of critical errors

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Many Hawke's Bay people are having their driving tests cut short for critical errors. Focus Driving School owner Donna Keeley says unsafe drivers put testing officers at risk. Photo/Paul Taylor
Many Hawke's Bay people are having their driving tests cut short for critical errors. Focus Driving School owner Donna Keeley says unsafe drivers put testing officers at risk. Photo/Paul Taylor

Nearly one in three Hawke's Bay people sitting their restricted licence test this year didn't have the chance to complete it.

NZTA figures show Hawke's Bay's termination rate for restricted licences was 32 per cent between January and September.

The figure refers to tests not completed due to an immediate failure error or the accumulation of several critical failure errors.

Immediate failure errors include collisions, failure to give way, excessive speed and failing to stop. Critical errors include going too slowly or too fast and failing to look or signal.

Focus Driving School owner Donna Keeley said she'd heard parents say they wished their son or daughter could have continued driving rather than having the test cut short.

"But the trouble is they don't know the history of the risks that the testing officer is put at by drivers who are unable to drive.

"So, to make it transparent, which they've tried to do over the years, they've set a standard and if that driver has not met that standard then it's deemed that the driver needs to do a bit more practice.

It's not the testing officer's job... to let them drive for an hour and then give them some feedback.... because there's been testing officers in hospital through crashes
Driving school owner Donna Keeley

"You've got to realise that the testing officer has got no brake of his own. He can't avoid a terrible accident happening, because he's got no controls on his side of the car."

To perform an immediate failure error, a driver wouldn't have followed safe driving standards, said Ms Keeley.

"I know people pay what they consider to be for a whole hour but it's not the testing officer's job to then become a driving instructor and just let them drive for an hour and then give them feedback at the end, because there's been testing officers in hospital through crashes."

One of Hawke's Bay's better testing officers had given up because he'd been involved in at least five crashes, she said.

Ms Keeley said people often failed tests because they hadn't done enough searching and scanning, hadn't dropped their speed for roadworks or hadn't stopped at a stop sign.

"The idea of the new driving tests, which they developed in 2012, was to improve the standard of driving in young drivers because we had the highest death rate in the world."

She said she could tell shortly after the new standards were introduced whether a driver going for their full licence had sat the old or the new restricted test.

"Their habits and their driving skills were quite significantly different," she said.

According to the NZTA, the terminated rate for full licence tests in Hawke's Bay was nearly one in five, or 19 per cent.

Last year, 37 per cent of restricted licence tests and 20 per cent of full licence tests were terminated.

In 2013, shortly after the restricted licence test was made more difficult, 41 per cent of Hawke's Bay people had their restricted tests terminated and 35 per cent had their full licence tests terminated.

NZTA said candidates could also fail a practical driving test by having it cancelled before driving started because they didn't have their licence with them, the vehicle wasn't roadworthy, or they weren't familiar with basic controls in the vehicle.

They could also be failed due to an accumulation of minor errors throughout the test.

NZTA national media manager Andy Knackstedt said pass rates for practical driving tests were also influenced by factors such as the road and traffic environment.

The most important determining factor for each person's likelihood of passing the test was how much that driver has practised and prepared for the test, said Mr Knackstedt.

The overall national pass rate for the more challenging restricted licence practical test had increased from 40 per cent, after its introduction in 2012, to more than 60 per cent currently.

"The transport agency's focus is on quality and consistency in testing, and therefore on ensuring safe drivers, not on pass rates," said Mr Knacksteadt.

Nationwide, 35 per cent of restricted licence tests and 27 per cent of full licence tests were terminated between January and September this year.

The cost

Sitting a restricted licence has a $48.20 application fee, with another $86.60 for the test. A full licence has a $49.60 application fee, with $59.90 for the test.

If you have to re-sit, you pay another test fee but not another application fee.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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