Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Learner drivers up with best

Learner drivers in Wairarapa appear to be among the country's best, NZTA figures show.

Pass rates for the new restricted test, introduced in February, show about 200 motorists sat the exam in Masterton between February 27 and September 14 and 60 per cent passed.

Nationally, almost 21,000 motorists took the test during this period and only 41 per cent passed.

The national pass rate for the previous test was 81 per cent.

The new test is longer and harder, lasting 45 minutes instead of 30 and involving driving through different speed zones.

NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) regional manager access and use Kate Styles said it was too early to say whether Wairarapa's high pass rate was significant or what was contributing to it.

"Once the test results settle down, we'll be in a better position to determine whether any regional variations are significant," she said.

Dave Ryan, of the Wairarapa Road Safety Council, said the region's pass rate was encouraging and anything that helped young or inexperienced drivers, like a harder test, would benefit all road users.

Figures also showed about 8900 motorists had their exams cut short due to critical errors such as being involved in a collision, driving at excessive speed and ignoring instructions.

Thirty-seven were in Masterton, which is Wairarapa's only testing centre.

NZTA spokesman Andrew Knackstedt said the test was designed to better prepare novice drivers and the organisation made no apology for that.

"New Zealand has one of the highest rates of teen road deaths in the OECD," he said.

"We have made it very clear from the beginning that this is a more challenging test and we encourage people to ensure they are adequately prepared before sitting it."

But Mr Knackstedt said the pass rate was expected to climb gradually, and had risen from 38 per cent in March to 52 per cent last month.

Controversy around the test flared after an internal NZ Driver Licensing memo was leaked last month.

Written by national operations manager Gerard Clark, the memo said the pass rate for the current exam should be about 40 per cent.


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