A call for higher driving test fees for multiple failures

Man holding blank sheet of paper in his hand. Man sitting in a car and wearing brown jacket. Man has impression of embarrassment on his face.

A motoring research foundation has advised that driving test fees be increased for students who have already attempted driving many times without success.

According to the RAC Foundation, this will incentivize applicants to hold off until they are prepared to pass, reducing the backlog of “unacceptable” tests that frequently results in candidates having to wait “many months for a slot.”

According to official data, 93,204 of the practical driving exams that were administered in the year ending at the end of March represented at least six failed attempts by the candidates.

Those tests had a success rate of only 41.4%, while the average success rate for all tests was 47.9%.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) provided data that AA Driving School revealed last month, indicating that the average wait period for a test at the beginning of February was more than eighteen weeks.

During coronavirus lockdowns, driving tests were prohibited, which resulted in a massive backlog of applicants.

The strikes by driving examiners also resulted in the cancellation of thousands of examinations.

The cost of the practical driving test is £62 on weekdays and £75 on weekends, bank holidays, and evenings.

According to Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, the future administration ought to think about offering refunds to students who pass the exam on their first attempt and raising costs for those who have failed the test multiple times.

He told the PA news agency: “Forget about all the traffic jams out on the road, there is now an unacceptable amount of congestion in the test system with learners often waiting many months for a slot.

“In part these jams are being caused by people who have failed multiple times and come back to take a test that might be their fourth, fifth or sixth attempt, or even greater.

“An improved pass rate would help drive down the understandable backlog, and if you incentivise people to pass first time there is also a case for adding a modest premium to the test fee for those who have already failed on several occasions.”

Mr Gooding said the figures suggest some learners “keep throwing themselves back into tests without being properly prepared”.

He went on: “A higher fee might persuade them not to resit their test until they are more likely to pass.

“If you can improve the pass rate, this means more learners avoiding the financial and time costs associated with repeated disappointments at the test centre.”

Although the reasoning for new fees “might seem reasonable,” Nicholas Lyes, director of policy and standards at road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, cautioned that policymakers must exercise caution when adding to the already rising cost of driving.

He added: “Moreover, a looming threat of higher subsequent test costs could be unnecessary pressure we’re adding to somebody’s first test.

“Ultimately, driving instructors in consultation with the learner driver are best placed to decide on when somebody is ready to take their practical test.”

In its “Ready To Pass” campaign, the DVSA notes that many students take exams “before they’re ready” and offers tips on how to pass.

The organisation stated in February that one way to shorten wait times was to ask more experienced managers and administrative personnel to work full-time as exam administrators.

In an effort to encourage candidates to wait until they are prepared to pass, it was announced last year that the period of time they must wait after failing a test would be extended from 10 to 28 days.

In the UK, learners cannot schedule a practical driving test before they have passed a theory test.

In the first half of last year, the most number of times an applicant failed to pass the theory test was 59.

The unidentified person worked at a test centre in Redditch, Worcestershire, for around 60 hours and at least £1,380.

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