Six months on and learner drivers getting the message on tougher driving tests.
The NZ Transport Agency says the latest results from the new restricted licence practical driver testing regime show that more learner drivers are getting the message that a higher level of preparation and practice is needed to pass the new tests.
After six months and more than 26,000 restricted licence practical tests conducted under the new regime, the overall pass rate has gradually risen to 46 percent, up from 38 percent after the first month of testing but still well below the pass rate of around 80 percent under the old system.
NZTA Chief Executive Geoff Dangerfield said while no targets had been set, a significant drop in pass rates had been expected when the new testing regime was rolled out on February 27.
"The new test is more challenging, and a higher standard of driving is needed to pass. We expected that pass rates would drop pretty sharply when the new test was brought in, but we also expected that those pass rates would gradually increase over time, as the message filtered through to more learner drivers and they began to put in the kind of preparation and practice needed to raise their skills to a higher level.
"That's what seems to be happening, and it's possible that pass rates will continue to climb slowly in the months ahead. Ultimately the pass rate for the test will be determined by the amount of practice and preparation undertaken by learner drivers themselves."
Mr Dangerfield said the new test had been specifically designed to improve safety by encouraging learner drivers to clock up at least 120 hours of supervised practice before they sit the test. Research shows that young drivers who complete 120 hours of supervised practice on their learner licence have a solo-driving crash rate 40% lower than those who only complete 50 hours.
"We need to remember what this new test is all about – reducing needless deaths and injuries on our roads, improving the standards of learner drivers and encouraging them to take the time to develop their skills and build a solid and a safe foundation before they move on to the next stage of our licensing system. We were doing learner drivers no favours with a ‘once over lightly' approach."
Mr Dangerfield urged learner drivers and their families to take advantage of free resources available to help develop safe driving skills, including the NZTA/ACC Practice programme (www.practice.co.nz) which is specifically aimed at helping young drivers get 120 hours of supervised driving under their belts before sitting the restricted test, and www.safeteendriver.co.nz, where parents can find a wide range of tools and practical advice on how to help teenagers stay safe on our roads.
"Parents have a huge role to play in improving the safety of our young drivers, and these websites provide some great free tools to help them play an active role in teaching teens – without passing on their own bad habits.
"Booking in lessons with a professional driving instructor can also be part of the mix. Different people learn in different ways, and many learner drivers find lessons with an instructor useful, especially when starting out and learning basic car control skills".
NZTA crash statistics show that more than 700 Kiwi teenagers have died in road crashes in the past decade, with an average of one teenager killed on New Zealand roads every week in recent years. New Zealand has the highest road death rate in the OECD for 16-17 year olds, and the fourth highest road death rate for 18-20 year-olds.
Road crashes are the single biggest killer of teenagers in New Zealand, and our teen crash rates are among the worst in the developed world.
"That's a situation no-one should accept, and New Zealanders are looking for decisive action to reduce this needless waste of young life and young potential," Mr Dangerfield said. "Raising the standard of driving required to gain a licence with harder tests is an essential part of the solution."
Making the restricted driver licence test more difficult is a key element of the Government's Safer Journeys action plan to improve the safety of young drivers. Other changes introduced last year as part of the same package included increasing the minimum driving age to 16 and lowering the youth alcohol limit for teen drivers to zero.
Further information about the content of the new restricted driver licence test is available on the NZTA website at http://www.nzta.govt.nz/licence/photo/new-restricted-test.html