As the weather warms up, so does the season of learner drivers getting behind the wheel. It can be nerve wracking for an average novice driver, but imagine having thousands of people watching you learn on national television!
That’s the situation Twitter star Liam McEwan has found himself in as he takes part in a six-week series on TV2’s 4:30 Show where he will do what it takes to become a licensed New Zealand driver.
“I never learnt to drive and hadn’t even attempted my learner licence, so when the 4:30 Show approached me with this idea I had to say yes, just to get that push to actually do it,” says Liam.
Thankfully he’s no stranger to the limelight. With more than 200,000 Twitter followers and having chatted to celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears as a red carpet interviewer at events like the Video Music Awards, the 19-year-old understands pressure.
Apart from sitting his learner licence, Liam will also be one of the first to experience the AA’s simulated practical test, which is designed to replicate the conditions and challenges of the real restricted licence test. Learner drivers will be able to book it after it launches in November.
“When pass rates dropped in 2012 there were a lot of people saying the test was too hard, but actually it’s about creating safer drivers who are well practiced and better equipped on the road,” says AA Driving School General Manager Nigel Clark.
“That’s why we are developing the AA simulated practical test, so that learners can be better prepared for the real thing.”
Currently about 75% of students sitting their learner licence theory test are expected to pass, and restricted licence test pass rates are also improving.
“We’re now seeing pass rates climb back up to on average about 63% for under 20s and this is because more people are beginning to understand you need to put in a lot more practice and top up your skills with professional driving lessons if you want to pass,” says Mr Clark.
The proof is in the success the AA Driving School has seen with more than 90% of students who take a series of lessons with an AA driving instructor going on to pass their restricted tests. People who attend a defensive driving course are also 10% more likely to pass their full licence driving test the first time.
“The reason is these students are better prepared and know what to expect,” says Mr Clark.
The AA has developed a series of steps called Learn to Drive the AA Way that provides free information and guidance to new drivers through an interactive website which sees more than 15,000 new visitors to the site every week. It also offers free driving lessons to new learner drivers who are AA Members or have a relative who is an AA Member as part of its Ignition programme.