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10 things you didn't know about the driving test
It's expensive, time-consuming and stressful - but passing your driving test is a major rite of passage. The UK driving test began on 1st June 1935 - making 2010 its 75th anniversary.
Everyone remembers their own test and what it felt like to claim that coveted driving licence, but here are some facts and figures about the test that might surprise you...
France was the first country in the world to introduce a driving test. It was started in 1893 along with vehicle registration plates and parking restrictions. In 1900 Vera Hedges Butler was the first British woman to pass a driving test. As they hadn't yet started in Britain the intrepid Miss Hedges Butler went all the way to Paris to take the French test.
The test initially cost 37.5p. Now it's £31 for the theory test and £62 for the practical, making it £93 in total. A provisional licence costs £50, but converting it to a full one is free of charge.
In 1935 there weren't any test centres and the candidate would arrange to meet the examiner at a pre-arranged spot such as a town hall or railway station.
In 1935 the pass rate was 60% . Now the average is 46%, but there are significant differences between some test centres. For example Stonehaven in Scotland has a pass rate of 68%, whilst at Wanstead in London it's only 30%. The reason for the lower pass rate in some urban areas is partly because of more challenging traffic conditions but also because people often don't have a family car to practice on, and as the cost of living is high people on low incomes might have fewer lessons and come for their test before they're up to standard.
September 1939 - Driving tests were suspended for the duration of WW2 and resumed on November 1st 1946. And during the Suez Crisis there was another suspension between November 1956 - April 1957.
The UK driving test has changed over the years. In May 1975 demonstrating arm signals was longer required. And April 1991 was a bleak date for people who struggle with going backwards as a reverse parking manoeuvre became a compulsory part of the test. In 2003 the Show me/Tell me vehicle safety questions were added to the start of the practical test.
The theory test was first introduced in July 1996. Before this the driving examiner would ask some Highway Code questions at the end of the test - but if the candidate got it wrong they wouldn't fail as it would only count as a minor fault. The theory test was expanded to include the Hazard Perception test in November 2002.
In 1997, when reality television was in its infancy, one of its first stars was Welsh cleaner, Maureen Rees. 12 million people tuned in to the programme Driving School, in which she struggled to pass her test. Eventually she succeeded and went on to buy a Lada automatic and do a cover version of Madness' 'Driving in my Car' , which reached number 50 in the UK singles chart. Celebrities such as Griff Rhys Jones and Claudia Winkleman have also recounted their spectacular failures.
The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) now conducts 1.5 million car tests a year. 32 million people in the UK currently hold driving licences - 70% of the adult population.
And in the ongoing debate about men vs women drivers - it appears that women do take longer to pass their tests. A survey by the Department of Transport revealed that women, on average take 52 lessons and 2.1 attempts to pass, whilst men take 36 lessons and 1.8 attempts. However, women are by far the safer drivers once they've passed - Home Office figures show that 96% of all dangerous driving offences are committed by men.
Maria McCarthy is the author of The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates - how to pass your driving test published by Simon and Schuster. For extracts see www.mariamccarthy.co.uk
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