Driving test at 80: 10 fun facts

80 years of the driving test: everything you need to know

Driving test at 80: 10 fun facts

The British driving test is 80 years old today. It became compulsory in the UK on 1 June 1935, and around 50 million tests have been taken since then. Can you remember yours? Were you unlucky enough to take it more than once?

Here are 10 factoids you probably didn’t know about the driving test, courtesy of breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist.

80 years of the driving test: everything you need to know

1: The pass rate in 1935 was 63% compared to 47% in 2014

During the first year of compulsory testing, 246,000 candidates attempted the driving test at a rate of seven shillings and sixpence. The pass rate was 63%.

Today, the driving test costs £62 on a weekday and £75 at weekends, evenings and bank holidays. It includes a 10 minute independent driving section, introduced in 2010, and candidates must have previously passed a theory test (which costs £25).

2: Gairloch in Scotland has the highest pass rate in the UK

If you’re struggling to pass your driving test, you might want to try taking your test in Scotland. The highland village of Gairloch has very little traffic, no roundabouts on the test route and a pass rate of 93.8% in 2014.

Last year, just 16 people took their test in Gairloch. Only one of them failed…

80 years of the driving test: everything you need to know

3: Scotland too far? Try Cumbria

Outside Scotland, Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria boasts a pass rate of 65.5%. Whitby in North Yorkshire follows closely behind, with a pass rate of 65.4%.

4: Belvedere in London has the lowest pass rate

Driving in congested London is a challenge for even the most experienced driver, so we don’t envy anyone taking their driving test there.

Belvedere, in south east London, has the lowest pass rate in the country. Less than a third of candidates pass their test here.

80 years of the driving test

5: Ozzy Osbourne took 19 attempts to pass his driving test

Rock legend Ozzy Osbourne finally passed his driving test on his 19th attempt in 2009. He put previous failures down to his struggle with alcohol, joking that he turned up at the test centre with a bottle of vodka in his pocket.

Straight after being given his pass certificate, he headed to a Ferrari dealer to his dream car. He then promptly crashed it into a lawyer.

6: Arm signals were dropped in 1975

Bizarrely, the highway code (and therefore the theory test) still includes arm signals. Would you know how to indicate that you were slowing down, if your brake lights weren’t working?

You won’t be asked to demonstrate arm signals in your practical test, though. These were dropped in 1975.

80 years of the driving test

7: Pass Plus was introduced in 1995

Should the driving test include things like motorway and nighttime driving? It’s a great cause of debate, but currently these things aren’t included in the practical test.

For those wanting a little more training before hitting the road on their own, they can take part in the optional Pass Plus scheme. As a bonus, many insurance companies offer discounts to people have completed the programme (which takes a minimum of six hours).

8: The average theory test pass rate is 51%

The theory test is made up of two parts. The multiple-choice test, made up of 50 questions relating to the highway code, can take up to 57 minutes. To pass, the candidate needs to get 43 out of 50 questions correct.

The second part is the hazard perception test, introduced in 2002. Candidates have to watch computer generated clips and click the mouse as a hazard develops.

80 years of the driving test

9: The record number of driving tests taken stands at 36…

There isn’t a limit on the amount of times you can take your test, but if you’ve still not passed on your 36th go, it might be time to admit that driving is not for you.

An unnamed 40-year-old man from Stoke on Trent spent a whopping £2,294 on driving tests alone before finally passing his test on the 37th attempt last year.

10: …While the record number of theory tests is 113

A 30-year-old woman from Southwark has failed her theory test an incredible 113 times. That means she’s spent an incredible £3,500 attempted to pass her theory – before even being allowed to attempt the practical.

According to the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), women are six percent more likely to pass their theory test – while men are six percent more likely to pass the practical test.

2 replies
  1. Darren Forster
    Darren Forster says:

    I took a total of 4 driving tests and have actually passed my driving test twice. The first 3 tests I took in Warrington in an automatic. The first time I failed on reversing into a bay, the second attempt the examiner added an extra manoeuvre into the test as he said ‘cos I was autistic he needed to make sure I could do that additional manoeuvre and I failed on the additional manoeuvre, the third attempt at a test I’d actually not been driving for about 3 weeks as I’d been at the World Scout Jamboree, so after not practicing for 3 weeks I thought I’m so going to fail this. On the test I started driving and the examiner asked me to pull up at the side of the road, I went to pull up and caught the kerb slightly. At that point I thought oh no I’ve failed again. The good thing was that fault actually calmed me down. I went through the entire test, and at the end the driving instructor asked me how did I think I did. I told her that I thought I’d failed, she was quite surprised and asked me why I thought that, and I told her about touching the kerb at the beginning. She then told me that actually I passed with only one minor which was hitting the kerb. I was so surprised and shocked.

    I then moved to Ludlow and decided it was time to try and pass manual rather than just being stuck with automatics. I spent about 2 months learning manual, during which time the driving instructor couldn’t understand why I hadn’t gone in for manual in the first place. I explained to him that I’d spent 5 years building up my hand-eye co-ordination by driving the automatic and originally I couldn’t get the hand-eye co-ordination at all. When we got an automatic we went for one that had the gear stick in a normal position so I could use it to get used to where the gear stick was, and also switch it from drive to neutral when waiting at traffic lights, so I’d get used to the way a gear stick works.

    The driving instructor also told me that Ludlow is actually far harder to pass a test in than Warrington because of the amount of up and down hills you have to go through, and all the extra bits. I actually find Ludlow far easier to drive in than Warrington, as you don’t have 20 zones everywhere and you’re concentrating more on things going on around you rather than if your speedometers gone slightly over 20. I took my manual test in Ludlow and passed, this time I got 2 minors – the first one was for not checking my left mirror before moving off from a pavement – I knew full well that I’d done it but when you pass it’s a normal thing to spend more priority checking the roadside mirror than the pavement side mirror because what are you going to see in the pavement side mirror other than someone leaning against your car, where as the roadside mirror you need to make sure there are no cars that your about to pull out into. The second minor I thought was a bit unfair as we were driving through the middle of the town centre, with cars parked either side, heading up to a blind hill with traffic lights at the the top which were on red, they’re on red ‘cos cars can’t meet on top of the hill as it’s too narrow, there was a cyclist in front, and I had the opportunity to overtake the cyclist but I chose not to. I chose not to for a number of reasons – firstly there might have been cars coming over the top of the hill that I couldn’t see and to overtake the cyclist would have put me into their path, secondly the light at the top of the hill was red, so there was no point in rushing just to have to stop at the light, thirdly we were going into a 20 zone anyway, so again speeding up to 30 to overtake a cyclist and then slowing down to 20 afterwards made no sense, fourthly there was a lot more hazards to watch for such as people walking between the parked cars and vans, and fifthly if I overtook the cyclist it would have put him alongside my vehicle in a blind spot as I approached the traffic lights so could have ended up with him hitting the vehicle, it was much safer to have him in front so I knew where he was. Ironically a few days before that a cyclist in London had been killed by one of the olympic buses (it was 2012) as he’d got caught in the drivers blind spot and it was all over the papers about drivers being more careful around bikes, and there I’d been extra careful on my test and been penalised for it! Anyway I passed the test with two minors.


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