NZTA defends 'diabolical' test system

By Sophie Ryan, Heather McCracken

File photo / APN
File photo / APN

Despite complaints from frustrated learner drivers, authorities say more than half pass their practical test on the first try.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said nearly 60 per cent pass the restricted test on the first attempt, and overall the pass rate is more than 50 per cent.

NZTA said the pass rate for teenage drivers was higher than the overall average, at more than 60 per cent.

Nearly 150 parents and novice drivers have contacted APNZ today in response to a story about a testing officer being punched after failing a learner driver at Meadowlands AA in Auckland on Monday. Many were frustrated at failing the test multiple times.

READ MORE: Driving test officer attacked after failing learner motorist

NZTA spokesman Andrew Knackstedt said the more challenging restricted test was introduced in February 2012 to improve safety of young and novice drivers.

"Road crashes are the single biggest killer of teenagers in New Zealand, and with an average of one teenager killed on New Zealand roads every week in recent years our teen crash rates are among the worst in the developed world,'' he said.

"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.''

Young drivers on a learner licence were encouraged to put in plenty of hours of supervised driving and take advantage of free online resources before sitting the tougher practical test.

One parent said his 18-year-old broke down in tears after failing her restricted driving test for the fifth time.

Glenn Mclaughlin spent $670 on drivers licence tests for his 18-year-old daughter Dana, and has three other teenagers who could be in for a similarly costly experience.

Mr Mclaughlin said Dana has been driving vehicles through paddocks since she started school, and he had never doubted her capabilities behind the wheel.

He sat in on two of the driving tests to see for himself why she was failing.

"On the morning of her last test there were four other people sitting their tests; two who were teenagers and two who were older. All of them failed.''

Mr Mclaughlin said he approached the testing officer and asked whether he was simply revenue collecting, to which he replied that Mr Mclaughlin should take it up with a manager.

"It is so, so hard. Every single time it's a different reason. If they'd said at the first instance `here's the reason you failed' then we could take it away and practice.''

Mr Mclaughlin said the result of failing so many learner drivers is more illegal motorists on the roads.

He said he knew of many young motorists driving on learner licences from rural parts of Auckland into the city for work because there was no alternative and the tests seemed impossible to pass.

An Auckland mother who didn't want to be named said her son had been failed four times at Meadowlands AA. She estimated the cost of the tests and the time taken off work at $1000.

Another motorist had to sit the test four times. "The thing that struck me was the lack of consistency and oversight between assessors, locations etc.

"I believe the management of license testing process by various third party private companies leads to inconsistencies in driver capabilities.

"I think that driving should form part of the NCEA curriculum and should be taught as part of school as a standardised, national subject.''

More responses from readers

* Kristina Erzunova: "I recently was doing my full licence test at Meadowlands and he immediately failed me just for not using a middle lane! It would have been alright if I did something wrong, but not using a middle lane when it wasn't needed. The whole hassle of taking time off work and having to pay again!''

* Steve Honeyfield: "It is some time since my son failed his driving test but at the time he was told "You haven't done anything wrong but the car is too small for you''. This was driving my wife's Honda City which was manual transmission, as opposed to our larger auto car.''

* Tom Young: "Could it be that those who have failed the tests and then blame the examiners have been unworthy of gaining a licence because of lack of theoretical or practical ability? Indeed are some of these failing the tests in that group of persons who expect things to be handed out on a silver plate without having earned the right. If that should be the case then I would congratulate the examiners in doing their job and keeping our roads a safer place.''

* Ampie Vos: "My son failed four times now ... The reasons are very vague - taking too long at intersections. According to me that is the safer option than to put yourself and other vehicles in danger.''

* Nicky Mccormick: "My son failed his licence because his seat was damp, was offered a towel to sit on declined that so failed over that.''

* David Fraser: "They should establish a set fee paid once for the complete full licence so no matter how many times you sit your learners then provisional then full licence you pay only one fee up front.''

* Joanne Kriletich: "My daughter was failed twice. Once with her restricted and again when sitting her full licence. She was failed for very minor things e.g. not looking down a side road when driving past it, apparently she should have been looking for possible hazards!''

* Leo Russo: "I recently sat my restricted drivers licence twice at AA Papanui, Christchurch. The first time I instantly failed for not slowing down to 30km/h when seeing road cones. I was in the middle lane of a four-lane 60km/h busy road (Harewood Rd). There was no sign saying to slow down and the cones were related to the curb works. If I had slowed down I most likely would have had a car run into the back of me.''

* John Rhodes: "Haven't had a problem, but now the testers are getting realistic and keeping the incompetent off the roads, making it safer for all. Some parents should realise that there children may not be capable of ever becoming a good driver.''

* Natalie: "My boyfriend has "failed'' to obtain his full licence three times, the third time being over a year ago. Each time he has failed for a different, obscure and once even blatantly incorrect reason. The most recent time he was at a roundabout in 8am morning traffic (having taken the morning off work no less) waiting for a safe gap to drive through. A car behind him tooted - perhaps late for work - and the testing officer told him that he had instantly failed.''

* Sue Gentry: "I had accidentally put my current registration behind an expired registration on my vehicle and when the driver tester saw this he walked off telling me it was too late as I had failed to display a current registration.''

* Vivian: "I have sat both my restricted and full from Meadowlands [AA] and passed first time round for both times. I found the advice and criticism of the instructors there to be fair and I assume that most of those people who failed from there are probably just bad drivers and the instructor saw them as unfit to be on the roads.''

* Yvonne: "The whole thing is a sham. We are up to $648 which includes a Defensive Driving Course, two lessons from a professional AA instructor, two failed tests and a third one pending.''

* Karen: "My daughter failed her restricted test - she was asked to turn right onto a busy four-lane road in peak hour traffic. She asked if she could instead turn left and go around the roundabout 50m down the road as this was a safer option. She was told this was the reason she failed, despite her AA driving instructor telling her to always take the safest route.''

* Phil O'Connor (ex testing officer): "When Mum and Dad teach their children to drive generally all they achieve in doing is passing on their own bad habits to their children - these are easily recognised to the testing officer.''

- NZ Herald

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