Hastings Direct news: the driving test
The government has resisted calls to overhaul the practical driving test in the past, but with pleas for it be to be updated still coming in thick and fast, there are signs this week that change could be afoot.
While we are still a long way from the "graduated licensing system" that road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) wants to see, the news this week suggests that the government isn't as rigid in its views on the practical test as it has been accused.
However, we might be getting ahead of ourselves here. Make up your own minds.
Money back for learners who pass first time
The government has asked for the public's opinion on incentivising drivers to be better prepared for their test by offering refunds for those that pass first time.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin believes that offering learners a refund on their test if they pass first time will raise the low first-time pass rate, which stands at just 21%.
"This change will give those who pass first time some money back and provide an incentive for learners to be more prepared before they take their first test," he said.
McLoughlin explained that some learners will book their practical driving test well in advance, resulting in some people sitting their test before they are equipped with the skills to pass.
The consultation, which closes on 8 January, also proposes evening and weekend tests, bringing some flexibility to proceedings.
The RAC was quick to put its support behind the proposals, arguing that they will "encourage learner drivers to get the experience they need to pass their test first time with flying colours."
Petition calls for elderly drivers to be retested
The government has also come under pressure this week to introduce retesting for elderly drivers. In a petition, Ben Brooks-Dutton calls for all motorists over the age of 70 to be retested every three years.
Brooks-Dutton, whose wife, Desreen, was killed by an elderly driver, started the Change.org petition little more than a week ago, and by Friday it was only a few thousand away from its target of 200,000 signatures.
"I know the human cost of unfit drivers on the road and I never want anyone to go through a tragedy like the one that has decimated my family," he wrote on the petition's page.
However, with drivers over the age of 70 in the UK currently only required to fill in a self-assessment form every three years to renew their licences, he has a long way to go before seeing his proposal become a reality.
Zero-accidents target for self-driving cars 'unrealistic'
There will inevitability come a time when all this talk surrounding the driving test dies down completely — when self-driving cars are commercialised.
However, those that think the introduction of autonomous cars on British roads will see accidents disappear entirely are wrong, says the head of the government policy unit responsible for overseeing their introduction.
Iain Forbes, from the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Driving, says that self-driving cars will significantly reduce the number of deaths on British roads — but drivers would "still have to be comfortable with" a small percentage of deaths a year.
"The technology will only reach its full potential if it can withstand failures," he stressed.
He added that targets of 'zero' accidents are both unhealthy and unrealistic, while predictions of what will happen in the future are invariably wide of the mark anyway.
To prove his point, he noted how in 1894 The Times predicted that over the following 50 years the use of horse-drawn carriages would increase to such an extent that every street in London would be covered with 9ft of horse manure.
"I don't know about you, but my history lessons didn't suggest that was the big problem facing the country in 1944," he remarked.
Mobile phones a 'serious threat' to road safety
When self-driving cars do finally arrive, motorists will be able to browse their phones on the go until their heart's content. For the time being, however, they must remain firmly out of reach.
IAM's first major survey into safety culture suggests that drivers are not convinced their fellow road users are ignoring their phones like they are required to when driving.
More than three quarters of the 2,000 UK motorists questioned feel that more people are now distracted by technology while driving than they were three years ago.
To put that into perspective, 23% of people believe that drink-driving is a bigger threat than three years ago.
Some 93% of respondents cited text messaging to be a 'very or somewhat serious' threat, while 90% felt that drink-driving fell into that category.
With the findings in mind, IAM president and 1992 Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell CBE highlighted how drivers are "happy to support even stronger legislation even if it may stop them doing things they admit to doing themselves."
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