Learner drivers: Pass rates up, but third fail theory

By Cassandra Mason

Last year NZTA introduced a tougher practical test for restricted licence applicants. Photo / Thinkstock
Last year NZTA introduced a tougher practical test for restricted licence applicants. Photo / Thinkstock

One in three aspiring drivers are failing their learner licence theory test, new figures reveal.

But New Zealand Transport Agency figures show national pass rates have shot up since computerised testing was introduced in 2009, when more than half of all applicants were failing to get past the first stage.

Last year Manawatu had the highest pass rate of 75 per cent, and the West Coast the lowest at 60 per cent.

The number of serious and fatal accidents involving teenage drivers has also dropped dramatically over the last five years to record lows.

In 2008, 65 people were killed in road accidents involving teen drivers - compared to 24 last year.

NZTA road safety director Ernst Zollner said the old paper scratch test was well past its use by date when it was scrapped in 2009.

"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."

The early days of computer testing saw an expected drop in the pass rate, which had steadily increased since then, Mr Zollner said.

"... 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."

While the reduction in fatal and serious injury crashes involving teenage drivers was also encouraging, road crashes were still the single biggest killer of teenagers nationwide, Mr Zollner said.

In recent years, one teenager was killed on our roads every week - one of the worst rates 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.

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

Last year NZTA introduced a tougher practical test for restricted licence applicants, which came under fire for its high failure rates.

Other changes introduced as part of the Government's plan to improve safety among young drivers include raising the minimum driving age to 16 and lowering the youth alcohol limit for teen drivers to zero.

SAMPLE TEST QUESTIONS:


• Alcohol slows down your reactions while driving. True or False?

• What should you do if the vehicle behind you wishes to pass?

• When a flock of sheep are coming towards you on a country road, what should you do?

• Before making a lane change to your left, you must signal for at least three seconds. What else must you do?

• When traffic is merging, what is a good rule to follow?

* Note: NZTA refused to provide the multiple choice answers.

- APNZ

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