It has been reported this week that one in five learner drivers have points on their licenses even though they haven’t even passed their tests yet, which has caused many people to call for harsher restrictions for young drivers. Data from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) shows that there are currently almost six thousand drivers that have points on their provisional licenses and that three in ten people are unaware that you can gain points on your licence while learning to drive.
Most of the points for learner drivers were handed out for speeding (60 per cent), however 43 per cent of the points were issued for jumping red lights and 33 per cent for driving without car insurance. Discussing the issue, a DVLA spokesman said: “We take road safety very seriously and all motorists, including learner drivers, should be aware that if they drive irresponsibly they can be prosecuted.” Meanwhile, Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), said: “It is incredibly shocking that so many new drivers are accumulating points especially before officially passing their test. The one positive aspect is that bad driving is being spotted and prosecuted.”
However, even though there is a large amount of learner drivers with points on their licenses it may soon be easier for them to pass their tests as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is cutting the cost of theory tests. As of October this year theory tests will be six pounds cheaper, costing just twenty five pounds, and it is expected for them to decrease again to just twenty three pounds in October 2015. Transport Minister Stephen Hammond said: “This has been achieved without compromising on the vital role the theory test plays in making sure that new drivers know The Highway Code and the rules of the road. I am delighted that theory tests will now offer better value for money while continuing to meet these rigorous standards.”
Even though lowering the cost of theory tests will make learning to drive more affordable for young drivers, staff are still extremely vigilant when it comes to cheating. In fact, just the other week a man from Birmingham was cautioned for trying to cheat while taking his written theory test. The Greater Manchester Police City Centre tweeted: “Odd arrest yesterday – man sits written driving test with earpiece which allows him to ‘phone a friend.’ Worst thing was, he failed the test.” However, Inspector Phil Spurgeon didn’t find the situation as humorous, and said: “His was an audacious attempt to cheat on the driving theory test by using an earpiece to receive the correct answers.
“However, thanks to the vigilance of staff who saw the device fall on the floor this man was caught red-handed and has subsequently received a police caution. He failed the test because he did not complete the exam which was immediately cancelled. Obviously it was not a particularly sophisticated method of cheating but it should send out a message to anyone considering this that they will be caught and punished.” This year the amount of learner drivers in the UK has grown for the first time since 2008, which is why it is important that they are properly cautioned if found to be breaking the law either on the road or when taking their theory tests.
In a report earlier this year the DSVA showed that between April and March 2013 almost one and a half million practical driving tests were taken in the UK, a 2.9 per cent increase compared to the year before. The report added: “The economic recession from 2008 may have discouraged some people from taking a test. However during the latest financial year there have been increases in test volumes … this comes at a time when economic indicators are improving.” Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, also commented on the report and said: “Maybe it is a sign that the economy is recovering, people have held back and are now starting to take tests again. In a lot of professions having a driving license is important.”
With the amount of people learning to drive in the UK increasing it is important that the DVLA and DVSA put measures in place to ensure that when a person passes their driving test they are ready to join the UK’s roads and not endanger other drivers. Some are even suggesting that learner drivers should be required to spend at least a year learning to drive before being allowed to take their tests, however the government backed down on these proposals earlier this year.