In this post I will look at how easy it is to get a licence in Ireland and the adequacy of our driving test. In a later post I will examine how easy it is to lose your licence.
Currently the average waiting period for sitting your driving test is 43.3 weeks, with the highest waiting period being 60 weeks in Raheny in Dublin. The average pass rate across the country is 53.3%. As has already been stated in the media, this waiting list situation needs to be addressed urgently, and some possible solutions have also been discussed.
Despite these waiting lists and the 53.3% average pass rate, I agree with the Minister, it is too easy to get a licence and indeed to drive on our roads. The driving test as it is at the moment is not a stern enough test of driver competence. Think about what is considered an adequate test of driver competence. A fifteen minute run around a city or residential area at speeds no greater than 60kmph, where the driver is asked to do a three point turn, a hill start and reverse around the corner.
Why aren't drivers taken onto motorways? Learner drivers are not allowed to drive on motorways, and for good reason, so why not test drivers on a motorway to see if the are capable of handling themselves on one. Why aren't drivers tested on country roads? That's where the majority of fatal accidents occur and the skills needed to drive country roads are different from those in a residential area. Finally, why are our potential full-licence drivers not tested driving at night? Driving at night is a different task to driving during the day.
Next, why is it that a person can fail the driving test, and then proceed to get into their car and drive home? Indeed why can I go get a provisional licence, then buy a car and start driving without any need to ever get myself a driving lesson? Sure I have to sit a theory test, but having the skills to drive a car safely is fundamentally different from knowing how to identify a clearway.
Here's what I suggest...
We need to educate our drivers, before they start driving on the roads. A friend of mine suggested targeting the schools, introducing some kind of drivers-ed scheme where the kids are learnt the fundamentals of driving before they are old enough to get a provisional licence. You could also introduce such schemes in the community for older individuals starting to drive. Make participation in such a scheme compulsory before someone can get a provisional licence, as a sort of partner to the theory test. Thus we can be sure that Jimmy has some experience when he gets his 2 litre turbo from Daddy when he turns 17.
Next, if you fail your driving test, you should not be allowed to drive home immediately after. O.k that's a bit harsh. How about extending the rule where by drivers on their first provisional are not allowed to drive without the presence of a fully qualified driver? Thus if you fail your test, you will require the presence of a fully qualified driver and you will be required to take at least 5 lessons with a professional instructor before being allowed to drive on your own again.
Finally and fundamentally the driving test needs to be overhauled so that it more accurately reflects the challenges facing our motorists on Irish roads today. I would also advocate drivers having to resit their tests every 10-15 years.
Now I know that you're probably sitting there thinking 'The waiting list for driving tests are long enough as it is' or 'How do plan to fund these reforms?' I agree and can't say that I have the answers to that. Nonetheless, I use these examples merely as a tool to illustrate the problems that exist and the need for these problems to be tackled in some way.
Coming soon...a look at how easy it is to lose your driving licence on Irish roads and what can be done about it.