Tests reveal road code ignorance

By Mathew Dearnaley

Nationwide the pass rate for the class 1 (car) theory test reached 70 per cent in July. Photo / Stuart Munro
Nationwide the pass rate for the class 1 (car) theory test reached 70 per cent in July. Photo / Stuart Munro

Seasoned drivers confessed in Auckland yesterday they could do with some brushing up on the road code after failing many of the toughest questions posed in learner-licence tests.

The Transport Agency, pleased that almost 70 per cent of candidates for learner licences are passing their tests compared with fewer than half in 2009, is challenging experienced drivers to catch up with them by regularly reviewing the code.

But both the agency and the Automobile Association have stopped short of suggesting a need for mandatory refresher tests, as advocated by road safety organisation Brake.

That is despite AA spokesman Dylan Thomsen's failure - with that of the Herald's transport reporter and other experienced drivers tested informally by the newspaper - to give the right response to a question answered correctly by 59 per cent of learners.

Admittedly it was top of a list from the agency of the 10 toughest of more than 200 questions, but it required just a simple answer of true or false to the proposition: "When driving at night on a road with lanes you must be able to stop in half the length of clear road you can see in front of you."

The answer to the question, described by one Herald test participant as "bizarre", was that a driver must be able to stop within the full length of clear road ahead unless there are no marked lanes, in which case the distance only then must be halved.

Other questions in the top 10 list asked when headlights must be dipped at night, how vehicles react to tyres blowing out and the meaning of T2 in reference to transit lanes.

The road code states lights must be dipped on approaching a police officer and a vehicle will veer towards the side on which a front tyre blows out, or sway from side to side after a rear blowout. Only vehicles with two or more occupants are allowed in T2 lanes.

Mr Thomsen - who was keen to note he was not a driving instructor for the AA - said he had at least opted for "what is obviously safe practice" in believing a driver must be able to stop within half the clear distance on a road with lanes.

He believed the graduated licensing system had improved road safety without need for mandatory refresher tests, although the AA recommended experienced drivers check the code every year.

But Brake chief executive Mary Williams said although New Zealand was ahead of many other countries in requiring eyesight checks for drivers every 10 years, when renewing photo licences, online knowledge tests should be added.

How did you go?

Fran Hume.
IT worker and part-time author. Gained licence about 30 years ago.
Score: 5/10.
Thought some of the questions were "bizarre" and that being married to an engineer should have helped her to score better. "It is good if they have made the test more difficult because my 16-year-old son is going for his licence in the United States and it just terrifies me - not because he's not competent but because so many people die on the roads."

Kiyomori Tsutsui.
Auckland University business student. Gained licence nine years ago.
Score: 4/10.
Thinks older drivers should have to take refresher tests, although considers those in New Zealand more courteous than in his native Japan. "Is this a physics exam?"

Vaughan Kay.
Chef. Gained licence 17 years ago.
Score: 4/10.
Believes New Zealand drivers far safer than those in Korea, where he has spent 2 and a half years, and where "traffic lights are merely suggestions". "If I fail, I fail - I have still got my licence and I have never had a crash."

Have a go at the top 10 hardest questions in the road code: tinyurl.com/toughroadrules

- NZ Herald

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