The UK driving test turns 80

The UK driving test turns 80

It is 80 years since the introduction of that oft-dreaded rite of passage - the driving test.

The standard test was initially brought in because there were 7,000 fatalities on the UK's roads in 1934, despite there being just 1.5 million cars.

After the driving test was made compulsory on June 1, 1935, the number of deaths tumbled by 1,000. There are now about 35 million licensed vehicles, with an annual death toll of around 1,700.

The first driving test lasted half an hour and cost just seven shillings and sixpence, the equivalent of 37.5p in today's money. The first person to pass was Ronald Beere.

Over the years, the test has undergone a number of changes to keep up with the demands of modern driving.

Candidates used to be tested on performing hand signals, but that was stopped in 1975. In 1996 a separate theory test was introduced to replace the question-and-answer session on the Highway Code during the practical test.

A hazard-perception element was added to the theory test in 2002, which used video clips to test awareness of road hazards. This has been attributed to an 11% reduction in collisions.

The practical test also underwent a key change in 2010, with the introduction of a 10-minute "independent driving" section. Candidates have to show they can drive safely without constant directions from their examiner.

The latest change, in January this year, saw CGI technology replace filmed video clips in the hazard-perception test to include a greater range of driving environments.

Once learners pass their test it is a cause for celebration, but before they go out on the roads independently, they should make sure they have breakdown cover in case the unexpected happens.

Transport minister Lord Ahmad calls the driving test "a significant rite of passage", giving greater freedom and independence to generations of people across the country.

He says that it is just one example of Britain continually improving to make the nation's roads some of the safest in the world.

Copyright Press Association 2015