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The Story of the Driving Test: Moving into the 60s

1970s

Driving in the UK started to evolve rather quickly after the 50s. Did you know that the M6 Preston bypass was the first stretch of motorway built in December 1958? The M1 officially opened on 2 November 1959 but in the early days it had none of the following:

  • speed limit
  • central reservation
  • crash barriers
  • motorway lighting

Moving into the 60s…from 1 April 1962, people who had held more than 7 provisional licences were required to take a driving test. If they failed to do so, the licensing authority could refuse a further application for a licence.

In 1964 a voluntary register of approved driving instructors (ADIs) was set up under the Road Traffic Act 1962. In order to become an ADI, you had to pass stringent written and practical tests.

New drink-drive laws came into force on 8 October 1967 where the legal limit was 80mg alcohol in 100ml blood. In 1968 the test fee was increased to £1 and 15 shillings (£1.75p) and changes to the driving test from 2 June 1969 included:

  • vehicles used in the test must not have dual accelerator control unless this had been made inoperable
  • a separate driving licence group for automatic vehicles was introduced
  • candidates were required to produce their driving licence to the examiner at the test and sign the examiner’s attendance record – examiners could refuse to conduct a test if these requirements were not met

It’s hard nowadays to imagine not having a motorway, not having a drink driving limit and only paying £1.75 for a driving test! But as our roads got busier these changes were essential. Motorways kept traffic flowing and drink driving limits saved lives. Imagine what our roads would be like if these things weren’t implemented?

Stay tuned next week to find out more about the recent history of the driving test.

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The story of the driving test: 1930’s

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 1st June 1935

The law changed on 1st June 1935, making the Driving Test compulsory, but in order to not create too big a rush, voluntary testing was introduced on the 16th March 1935. The first person to pass was a Mr R Breere who did so at a cost of only 7/6d (37.5p) on that day!

This change of law meant that compulsory testing was for all drivers and riders who started driving on or after 1st April 1934.

The Examiners were trained ‘on the job’ and were responsible for handling the booking of driving tests. They used to meet candidates at pre-arranged locations such as car parks or railway stations because there were no test centres. The first overall pass rate was 63% which seems slightly scary considering that some of the people who failed were already driving!

When World War 2 arrived, driving tests were suspended from 2nd September 1939 until 1st November 1946. During the war, the examiners were redeployed to traffic duties and supervision of fuel rationing.

By 1950 the pass rate had gone down to 50%. Remember, last week we mentioned that the driving test was and still is self-regulating? Well more traffic and more interactions with other cars mean more chances to fail. All the time the pass rate was falling the test fees were rising. In 1950 the test cost 10/- (50p) and by 1956 it was £1, the equivalent to almost £25 in 2019. You’ll have probably noticed but the pass rate falling and the test fee rising are a theme throughout the story of the driving test!

Why do you think test prices rise as pass rates fall? Let us know over on Facebook!

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The story of the driving test: What is a driving test ?

The story of the driving test

So what is a driving test?

It is a test of driving competence, judged on what the examiner sees at that exact time and place. Essentially, it is the same test it has always been however, it has evolved to meet the ever-changing conditions.

The test can be described as self-regulating. This means that while in itself, it’s pretty much the same, the extra traffic on the road makes it more and more difficult.

The test means different things to different people. Here we will take a quick look at what those differences are.

To Society: It’s a right of passage from which you receive your freedom. Even The Queen has a Driving Licence. The fact she doesn’t need to drive, as she has 8 chauffeurs from the Royal Household to call on is neither here nor there. She still learnt and learning to drive is one of the things that binds us together as a people. A common experience that is shared by most.

To Government: The DVSA are the people who run The Driving Tests. Their aim is for you to be consistently safe with a bit of confidence in your driving. As we are all equal in the eyes of the law, all driving tests are as similar as possible. Obviously, we can’t all do the same test route with the same examiner but all tests will be to the same standard over similar routes. Another common experience shared by most.

The Candidate: If you’re ready, The Driving Test is easy, it’s the examiner that adds the pressure and makes it difficult. The way to cope with the pressure and for the best chance of passing is by giving the DVSA what they want. Being consistently safe but showing confidence in your driving. How do you know you’re ready? Would you be happy driving by yourself the day after you pass your test? Make sure you have an honest conversation with your instructor before you book your driving test. They will know when you’re ready.  

The Instructor: It’s a bittersweet moment when your pupil passes. You have grown to know and love them, and then they leave you! The knot in your instructor’s stomach becomes a feeling of joy when a pupil passes their test. For an instructor, the happiness that comes with a Pass surpasses the saying goodbye to a pupil.

The Examiner: These are the people who conduct The Driving Test. What might they be thinking? Their job is to see that you are consistently safe and driving with confidence. But how? Think about what an examiner might ask themselves during a test. Maybe it’s questions like, would I want them driving my car or would I want them driving near my car?

What do you think about The Driving Test? Have you taken one? Did you pass? How long ago did you take the test? Do you think you could pass now? Let us know over on Facebook!

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