The driving test at 80: fun facts from GEM

Posted on May 29th, 2015 by GEM Motoring Assist

Today (1st June) is the 80th birthday of the driving test, so road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist has gathered a few fun facts to help us mark this important road safety milestone.

GEM chief executive David Williams commented: “The driving test has had a positive and significant impact on road safety from its very first days. A year after it was made compulsory in 1935, road deaths in the UK fell by 1,000.

“OK, many of us will recall feelings of dread, apprehension and worry when it comes to the test – and it has certainly occupied its place in British comedies and sit-coms, but we should be proud of the consistency and high standards which have been its hallmarks over the decades.

“The challenge for the future is to ensure the test evolves to take account of the risks and hazards in the vehicles and on the roads of the future, so that new generations of drivers can demonstrate the same high standards that have been required up to now,” he said.

Here are GEM’s fun facts about the test:

  • 246,000 candidates put themselves forward for a driving test in 1935, the first year of compulsory testing. The fee was seven shillings and sixpence, and the pass rate was 63 per cent.
  • Today, the test centre with the highest pass rate is Gairloch in Scotland. In 2014, 16 people took their test here and just one failed, giving a pass rate of 93.8 per cent.
  • Outside Scotland, Whitby in North Yorkshire has a pass rate of 65.4 per cent and Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, boasts 65.5 per cent.
  • Belvedere in London lays claim to the lowest pass rate, with merely a whisker over 30 per cent of candidates finding success.
  • Rock legend Ozzy Osbourne took 19 goes to pass his driving test.
  • It was only in 1975 that candidates could complete the test without the requirement to demonstrate arm signals.
  • In 1995, Pass Plus was introduced to offer further post-test training.
  • The average pass rate of the theory test is just 51 per cent; that’s down from 65 per cent in 2007.
  • The record for the number of tests taken currently stands at 36
  • A 26-year-old woman from Southwark, London, failed her theory test at the 90th attempt in November 2010 – meaning she forked out nearly £3,000 before even gaining the right to sit a practical test.

Around the world
GEM has been taking a look at what’s required to gain a driver’s licence in other countries:

  • Legislation introduced in Russia at the beginning of this year means transsexual and transgender people, fetishists, exhibitionists and voyeurs, as well as pathological gamblers and compulsive thieves no longer qualify for driving licences.
  • In Brazil, you have to pass a psychological exam before obtaining a licence.  Learners are also taught techniques for escaping from potentially life-threatening situations.
  • Spain’s Highway Code is believed to be Europe’s most in-depth driving rule book, with three times as many rules as in the UK. However, the practical driving test is described as a ‘group excursion’. Spain has one of the highest road mortality rates in Europe.
  • In China, you may be asked to explain to your examiner what to do if your car plunges into water.
  • In Pakistan, the practical test involves one simple task: driving through a short course of cones. There is an 80% pass rate.
  • Mexico has no test. Simply buy a licence for 626 pesos (£28).
  • In Japan, you can fail your test if you do not bend low enough to check the underside of your car for concealed cats.