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Tougher driver tests on the way

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The NZ Transport Agency is urging young drivers and their parents to put in plenty of practice before booking appointments to sit tougher on-road driving tests being introduced from next week.

The NZTA has been working for several months to develop a new and more challenging on-road test for learner drivers entering the restricted licensing phase. The new practical test aims to improve the safety of young and novice drivers as part of the Government’s Safer Journeys road safety strategy.

The new test comes into force a week from today – on 27 February - and the NZTA is reminding young drivers and their parents that a substantial amount of supervised practice will be needed to prepare for and pass the more challenging test.

NZTA Chief Executive Geoff Dangerfield said the new test had been specifically designed to encourage learner drivers to clock up 120 hours of supervised practice before they sit the test, and that level of preparation would be needed to pass.

“The new test will be much more challenging. Young drivers will need to put in a lot more practice and demonstrate a higher standard of driving to pass, and we make no apologies for that. The more experience that young drivers gain in the learner licensing phase the less likely they are to crash when they begin driving alone, and we are doing young people no favours with a ‘once over lightly’ approach.”

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. Young drivers are most at risk during the first six to 12 months of their restricted licence phase, when they start to drive solo, and are four times more likely to crash than learner drivers.

“Young drivers should be practicing with parents or other experienced drivers in all possible conditions, including in wet weather and at night. Driving down to the shops and back simply isn’t enough. 120 hours may seem like a lot, but over a year it works out at just over two hours a week. That’s a small sacrifice to make for reducing the chances of your son or daughter being involved in a crash.”

Mr Dangerfield urged young drivers and their parents to take advantage of the free resources available from the NZTA/ACC online Practice programme (www.practice.co.nz (external link)) which is specifically aimed at helping young drivers get 120 hours of supervised driving under their belts before sitting the restricted test.

“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”.

While it is difficult to predict what the pass rate will be for the tougher tests and no targets would be set, the NZTA expects that pass rates for the restricted test will drop from the current level of around 80 per cent.

“The new test requires a much higher standard of driving, and it will likely take some time for that message to filter through,” Mr Dangerfield said. “As it does and as more young drivers begin to put in the kind of preparation and practice needed to raise their skills to the level required to pass the new test it’s likely that pass rates will begin to climb. Ultimately the pass rate for the test will be determined by young drivers themselves.

“It’s important that we remember what this new test is all about - improving the standards of young drivers in order to reduce needless deaths and injuries on our roads.”  

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 to increase the minimum driving age to 16 and lower the youth alcohol limit for teen drivers to zero are part of the same package.

Safer Journeys is the government’s ten year road safety strategy designed to reduce death and serious injuries on our roads. Improving the safety of road users is one of the four elements of the system. Safe roads and road sides, safe speeds and safe vehicles complete the set.

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-tests.html(external link)

For more information please contact:

Andy Knackstedt
NZTA Media Manager
T 04 4 894 6285  
M  0212 763 222 
andrew.knackstedt@nzta.govt.nz

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