Driver licence pass rates rise

By Cassandra Mason

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More people are passing their drivers license test.
More people are passing their drivers license test.

One-in-three aspiring Rotorua drivers is failing his or her learner licence theory test, new figures reveal.

But the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) 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.

The Bay of Plenty's pass rate is at 65 per cent this year so far, compared to 50 per cent in 2009. The number of serious and fatal crashes involving teen drivers in the region also dropped slightly from 28 in 2008 to 25 last year. Rotorua-specific figures were unavailable.

Allan's Driving School owner Allan Koller said young Rotorua drivers had a good handle on the road rules. "The easiest person to teach is a 15-year-old, especially if he's off a farm."

However, the new computerised testing didn't cater well for people who weren't computer literate, or who had learning disabilities, he said.

The reduction in serious and fatal crashes involving teenage drivers might reflect the raised driving age, from 15 to 16, Mr Koller said.

And it was international drivers, not young people, who posed the most danger on the roads.

"People from [other] countries can buy their licences overseas, never having sat in a car. They sit the theory test and they get a [NZ] licence."

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 scrapped in 2009.

"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.

"Young drivers have got 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 teen drivers was encouraging, road crashes were still the 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.

Last year the NZTA introduced a tougher practical test for restricted licence applicants. Other changes included raising the minimum driving age to 16 and lowering the youth alcohol limit to zero.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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