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The Herald on Sunday editorial

Herald on Sunday editorial: Tests must be driven by fairness, not fear

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

There will never be much sympathy for teen drivers. Running up too many speeding tickets, incurring too many careless driving convictions, it is easy to see them as a danger on the roads. Seven hundred Kiwi teens died in road crashes in the past 10 years - the highest rate among developed nations.

Successive governments have won votes by cracking down on young drivers. Judith "Crusher" Collins revelled in the nickname given her for legislating to confiscate and destroy the souped-up cars of boy racers whose antics struck the fear of God into their law-abiding elders. And parents dread the day when their sweetfaced children get a driving licence and behind the wheel of their first car.

But fair's fair.

If teenagers learn the Road Code, do the hard yards with a driving instructor or parent and learn to drive, shouldn't they have a fair chance at passing their test and being granted the privilege of taking their place among New Zealand's licensed drivers?

Not according to New Zealand Driver Licensing, the company that runs the tests.

A memo leaked to the Herald on Sunday reveals testers have been told to pass around 40 per cent of candidates, or face the consequences. The arithmetic isn't hard: that means failing 60 per cent.

Now, there are clear, legal guidelines around what qualifies as a pass or a fail. Do the indicators and brake lights work? Can the candidate turn right at a T-junction, giving way to one lane of oncoming traffic? Do they maintain a safe following distance? There are dozens of boxes they must tick.

Nowhere in the legislation does it say pass rates should be scaled up or down to ensure most candidates fail.

Even parents are getting frustrated. One Hamilton father told this paper how he watched his two sons fail three times each, despite a driving instructor assuring them they were ready.

Is it a coincidence that each time NZ Driver Licensing fails a young driver, the company can charge them $88 to resit the test - and that the 7397 resits forced on candidates since tough new standards were introduced in February have garnered the company more than $650,000?

Arbitrary scaling was phased out of high school examinations 25 years ago, because the community realised it was unfair to treat children as rats in a statistical laboratory. We shouldn't let some avaricious testing contractor bring it back, just because we're scared to let our kids grow up.

- Herald on Sunday

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