The NZ Transport Agency is reminding young and novice drivers that new practical driving tests coming into force today (27 February) will be much more challenging and harder to pass than current tests.
NZTA Chief Executive Geoff 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, and he reminded drivers that they should not expect to pass the new test unless they had put in that amount of preparation.
“The new test will be much more challenging, and a higher standard of driving will be needed to pass – that is the whole point, and we make no apologies for that. This is about making new drivers safer drivers by encouraging them to take the time to develop their skills and to build a solid and a safe foundation before they move on the next stage of our licensing system.
“The more experience that drivers gain in the learner licensing phase the less likely they are to crash when they begin driving alone. 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 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 investment to make for reducing the chances of your son or daughter being involved in a crash.”
Mr Dangerfield urged learner drivers to wait until they were properly prepared before booking an appointment to sit the new test.
“This is a very challenging test, and people need to ask themselves ‘am I really ready for this?’ before they book an appointment to sit the test. The reality is if you haven’t put in 120 hours supervised practice, you aren’t ready, and you’re not likely to pass.”
Mr Dangerfield said for the next two months the NZTA would waive the fee for cancelling or rescheduling tests for drivers who had already booked appointments to sit the new test if they decided they needed more time to prepare, provided notice was given two working days prior to the scheduled appointment.
“We want to help people get ready for this and help them with the transition to the new test. If you’re already booked in to sit your restricted licence test, but you think you need more time to practice, let us know and we’ll reschedule the test at no extra cost.”
Mr Dangerfield also 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”.
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.
Further information about the content of the new restricted driver licence test is available on the NZTA website at Changes to the driver licence tests.