16 March 2015: The Driving Test Turns 80 !

by Eloise Peabody-Rolf

Cars have been part of our lives since the first recorded sale of a manufactured motor car to Emile Roger of Paris, who bought a petrol-driven Benz in 1888. Today there are more than 27 million vehicles on our roads.  Driving is now considered a ‘life skill’, and applying for your provisional licence, then passing your driving test, is something most of us eagerly look forward to as we turn 17 – I know I can’t wait !

On 16 March 1935, voluntary driver testing was introduced in the UK by the Road Traffic Act, 1934, in an attempt to reduce road fatalities.  This voluntary testing was started to avoid a rush of candidates when the test was to become compulsory for all drivers on June 1 later that year.

Around 246,000 candidates applied for the first tests, at a cost of 7/ 6d (37.5p), and they had a pass rate of 63%. Between 9 and 16 half-hour tests were conducted each day by just 250 examiners. 

Top 10 Driving Test Facts

·         Mr Beene was the first person to pass the driving test in 1935: he paid the grand total of 7/ 6p (37.5p) to take the test

·         there were no test centres in 1935 so you had to arrange to meet the examiner somewhere like a post office, train station or town hall

·         the test was suspended for the duration of World War 2 and didn’t resume until 1 November 1946

·         in 1975, candidates no longer had to demonstrate hand signals

·         the theory test was introduced in 1996, replacing questions about the Highway Code during the practical test

·         driving was much more hazardous 75 years ago. 7,343 people were killed on Great Britain’s roads when only 2.4 million vehicles were in use - in 2008, 2,538 people were killed with 26.5 million vehicles on the road

·         candidates could book their theory test online for the first time in December 2001

·         the pass rate in 1935 was 63% compared to 46% in 2009

·         1969 saw the first driving test set for an automatic vehicle

·         since 1935 more than 46 million tests have been taken