South Meath Driving School

Making Irish Roads Safer

We use a 1.4 litre Toyota Yaris.

    Dual control means the tutor has a clutch and brake pedal on the passenger side for demonstration or emergency purposes.
    This car is very easy to drive and allows good vision in all directions.
    Diesel engine and manual gears.
    Seats are adjustable to suit small or tall people. Wing mirrors electronically adjustable
    Perfect for learning to drive.

Archive for the ‘Driving Test’ Category

Posted by Louis on July 31, 2013

The Driving Test is an Unfair System

For the past seven years I have been giving driving instruction as an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) in Class B vehicles. In that time I have seen many candidates undergo the driving test, practically all with an element of trepidation yet many came out smiling, but, for the minority it was a repeat dose. Having carried out much research world-wide, the Dept. of Transport set up the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in 2007 with a view to structuring a safer learning process for young drivers.

It has worked well but one area that requires urgent change is the age-old system of the driving test.

On the 4th of April, 2011, the Essential Driver Training (EDT) programme came into being. It is the new system whereby learner drivers must undergo a minimum of 12 x 1 hour lessons with an ADI before being eligible to apply for a driving test.

Features of the new system include, among others, car controls and safety checks, correct positioning, changing direction, anticipation and reaction, night driving – all following the lesson programme to bring out the better driving skills, proper behaviour and attitude in a learner driver. There are many hours of practice with a sponsor between lessons and after completion of the EDT course. Parents looking at this new learning programme might be forgiven for thinking that it would cure all driving ills, that it was even a bit scientific.

Prior to April 4, 2011, the holder of a Provisional Licence wasn’t subject to such training. Some drove a tractor on the farm from a young age; a parent or friend introduced the novice to the travails of driving in the laneway or local boreen before venturing into town for a ‘finetuning’ of those skills.

It was then time to apply for the Test and the driving instructor was summoned for just a few lessons and tips to ensure the test was passed.

Therefore, one would expect that in graduating from that scenario to EDT in 2011, the standard would rise out of all proportion and the test should be a near formality. Here then are some statistics on pass rate percentages at random test centres –

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Navan 58% 53% 49% 51.5% 50%
Sligo 62% 67% 67% 66% 69%
Tallaght 59% 41% 43% 41% 43%
Letterkenny 60.7% 52% 56% 59% 60%
Athlone 54.5% 57% 51% 54.5% 56%
Average All Centres 57% 52% 51% 54% 56%








The preparation for a driving test prior to 2007 was without any particular standard set by the State. The pass rate in Navan in ’08 was 58% reducing to 50% last year. Tallaght centre shows a decline from 59% to an extraordinary 43% in the same years, whereas Sligo’s and Athlone’s trend was upward while Letterkenny changed little. Overall, there’s a slight increase.

I can find no sense or reason in those figures. The learner driver of today is usually more educated and their wherewithal ranks well above that of the previous generation. But, in this context, too many are being left frustrated over a test system whose method is ancient, stale and dictatorial. A driving test should not be conducted and decided on by one individual without opportunity of challenge. To say that one may appeal a decision to the District Court is folly. How many will take the trouble? In any case, the Court can’t change the tester’s decision, but may order a retest for free.

The driving instructor(s) must have an input that is commensurate with their role in the preparation and overall assessment of the candidate. Afterall, the ADI is the one with in ‘hands on’ role.

Their  input could be done by way of completion of a confidential form which would be submitted to the RSA in advance of the test or, furthermore, hold a verbal briefing in advance of the test. The tester’s position would not be undermined. If anything, the ADI is putting his/her neck on the line with this proposal.

I understand that in Belgium the tester sits in the back seat and the driving instructor takes up position in the passenger seat for the test. That way the candidate will not be as nervous as meeting a tester alone and for the first time. In Holland, the tester has no marking sheet; the candidate drives for about an hour and there’s an assessment that is more general with regard to the competency or otherwise of such student. I’m aware that there’s a pilot scheme in operation here at present where the ADI may accompany the candidate on a test. That isn’t going far enough, especially where an ADI’s car is being used. It’s in operation in England for a time.

The current Irish system plays into the hands of the tester alone: that is wrong. Eight grade 2 ticks can be given and yet pass. One more tick and you fail. It’s in the mould of sweets for a child who is good, than to do with the many elements of safety on our roads. Is there much wrong with a candidate slowing down by a few km/h for a short distance because there’s a fear of breaking the speed limit. How can anyone be sure if it’s a 50 or 60 km/h zone he’s in? One may travel many many hundreds of metres in a built up area without seeing a further speed limit sign, especially around Navan where traffic signs (or a lack of) and road markings are nothing short of disgraceful, leading to confusion for the best of drivers. So, a candidate slows a little too much and gets a tick for ‘Progress on the straight.’

What’s so incompetent about driving for a while in 3rd gear instead of 4th?  Diesel cars struggle at 50km/h in 4th gear. There’s so much that is in the petty, nit picking category of the test that has little or nothing to do with either unsafe driving or a lack of competency. There’s simply too much discretion left in the hands of the tester. That is not the testers fault. The tester is very professional and can only deal with the programme presented to him/her. There is a great lack of communication between ADIs and the RSA. There should be an open meeting held on a bi-annual basis.

If the number of road deaths and injuries are falling drastically it must be a reflection of higher driving standards. That is not reflected in the test pass rates. Why? Look at a few statistics here –

2008 279
2009 239 40% u-25
2010 212 38% u-25
2011 186 30% u-24
2012 162 30% u-25

This is a brilliant result for which all the stakeholders can take a bow. That is the RSA, ADIs, Gardai, NRA, ambulance crews etc. Yet the better candidates are not being rewarded at the test centre.

An example of the exasperation suffered by some victims of this test system is a young lady from Navan who sat her test recently (in her own back yard, of course.) We’ll call her Adelle. It’s an advantage, ‘playing at home’ of course. She had been driving for over two years. She was just an all round very good driver with a solid temperament.

One question the tester asked her was, ‘Is this your first time …?’ It was.

(Could it be that a tester is building a profile of a candidate? Such as age, experience, competency, before any driving action at all.) Adelle had 10 grade 2 ticks (8 being a pass.) She was perplexed. I was almost embarrassed and as frustrated as the poor girl. It made me think that I must be doing something wrong. Might I not be up to date in some areas? But, I don’t think so.

She soon had a new test date and I was due to do a pre test run with her when there was a death of a close relative in the family. Her test was the day after the funeral. There was no time for a pre test run out. She went ahead and had just 2 grade 2 ticks. Of course the RSA will say it’s all on the day, that nobody drives the same on any given two occasions etc. But Adelle’s case is symptomatic of so many other candidates. A young person should not be a statistical subject in the eyes of the RSA. Their individual performance should stand alone for assessment and not be subject to the number of young people who are getting killed on the roads. That’s a totally different matter.

The young person, 17 years old, undergoing a driving test  reminds me of the young fellow who has come before a District Court Judge on a charge of, say, assault and breach of the peace. It’s his first time in court. The judge wants to teach this chap a lesson, yet not punish him too severely with a custodial sentence. So he remands him in custody for a week and then gives his decision – one month in prison, suspended conditionally. The young man didn’t officially serve time inside. But he got a sniff of what it would be like if he misbehaved in the future. It is my opinion that the young driver, in the eyes of the RSA, must earn his brownie points and so, can afford another visit and some more of mammy’s hard earned money. That will make him appreciate his certificate of competency. Poor Adelle!

Therefore, I emphasise that broader assessment is the key, like input by the ADI and a system akin to that of Holland. If after 12 or more lessons I can say to a learner, “ You are a competent driver with a good attitude to safety and to other road users,” I should also be able to say to that person that I am confident he or she should pass any driving test. But no, I cannot.

The RSA made all Approved Driving Instructors undergo a stringent learning programme in order to instil in the learner the essentials of safe driving and the skills involved. Then they close the door on the ADIs. That must change forthwith.

A test shouldn’t be conducted in built up areas alone. Where do collisions involving death and serious injury occur? Out mostly on country roads, at junctions, blind corners and in the attempt at overtaking. Driving on a clutch and brake for 15 minutes of a 30 minute  test, bumper to bumper is no great test of skill. Other aspects should include night time tests, driving on motorway, overtaking  and changing a wheel. A candidate isn’t allowed drive on a motorway under instruction with an ADI or parent etc., but pass the test and it’s on to the motorway at 120 km/h. No, it’s no use giving advice to take a practice run on a motorway with an experienced driver after qualifying. It should be in the programme of preparation and set down in legislation.

The new marking system of faults in the driving test whereby the candidate is later supplied with a detailed marking sheet, is not being met with approval. The older system was simpler,  clearer and instant. When a tester has made up his/her mind on faults incurred, it should be delivered immediately if a final decision on pass/fail is also being there and then delivered.

The cost of preparation and the taking of a driving test is now reaching towards 1000.00 euro, all told. I feel that a second test should be reduced from 103 euro to 50.00. A lot of people that I talk to are of the opinion that money could be an element of this first time failure. Should that be the case, it could spark another inquiry. I’m merely quoting what many are saying and many have the same sentiments in relation to the National Car Test (and the retest.) A lot of people in Ireland  have had their savings and property values plundered by clowning bankers and incompetent politicians so we all have to be extra cautious in the way household expenditure is handled. The Driving Test and NCT are new areas that require closer monitoring.

An individual undergoing a driving test should not be looked at in the light of national trends in road crashes or fatalities. The RSA has been running a road safety broadcast campaign recently in the form of Gay Byrne asking drivers to slow down, that there was one death more in the first half of this year than that of 2012. Everyone is conscious of all this and long may Gay’s message live. I wonder how do the RSA deliver this message of gloom to the many testers around the country.

A healthy sign of progress is the ability to adapt and change. They say the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly: the Dept of Transport have challenged that myth in the past few years. I appeal to them to continue the good work and change radically our ancient driving test methods in a manner that will show greater fairness to a young generation of people who have become the coping class.

Posted by Louis on April 17, 2013

A Critical Look at the Driving Test

Many moons have come and gone since Jimmy Joe sat his driving test in Carrick town. There was little preparation. ‘Look in the mirror now and again and don’t drive too slowly,’ advised a fellow driver who had recently passed his test. It was a time before roundabouts, changing lanes, Zebra crossings, let alone a Toucan crossing, and there were no traffic lights in Carrick. There are still no such lights there – they believe in ‘keeping it country’ yet they do have traffic lights on their treasured canals and waterways.

Oh, and JJ passed his test. He drove around for a half hour, negotiating junctions, a turnabout and reverse, and proved to be proficient.

There were less than one million vehicles on our roads in those 1970’s, now there are nearly x2.5 times that figure. There was no standard of test set by the Dept of Transport until 2007 when the Road Safety Authority was assigned the task.

Out of that design came the Essential Driver Training, a must – do 12 lessons with an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI)  before sitting the driving test and some other strings attached. Our roads are of the Continental style now with hatched areas, yellow box junctions, flyovers etc. Modern drivers are skilled and educated to the dangers lurking out there, thanks to the new programme.

However, the driving test format hasn’t changed drastically since JJ’s sojourn in Carrick town.

There’s one tester with a pad on his/her knee sitting beside the nervous candidate for about a half hour’s drive around the town, then back in for a certificate of competency or the other unwanted one.

Looking at candidates on the day, it’s as much a test of nerve as competency. The ADI should have an input for this test; the ADI is the one who has tutored, tailored and observed for at least six months (in accordance with the new regulations.)

The final decision is with one person. Testers are well trained, too. However, I disagree that one tester should be assigned the sole power to decide on what I believe can be a matter of opinion vis a vis a matter of fact. Take the driving fault stated at section 6 of the Test Report Form:

‘Allow sufficient clearance to pedestrians, cyclists, stationary vehicles etc.’  Taking the latter situation (passing  stationary vehicles) – a whiz kid of 17 years with excellent spatial awareness skills might be only inches from a number of parked vehicles on Kennedy Road (Navan) as he meets a large van coming from the opposite direction. This young driver knew what he was doing and that there was no danger of his wing mirror clipping that of the parked vehicles. Yet the tester thought different. He was too close. Tick eight more boxes for minor infringements and you fail by one.

Yes, he was 2 over the speed limit, he didn’t ‘observe’ properly turning right and left and the gears grated a little, etc. Apply again. Mammy, more driving lessons, more money. Oh, and another 103 euro to re-sit the test. A retest should be at 50% of the original cost.

I have to honestly ask the question, what had the half hour’s test drive to do with road safety, generally? There’s hardly a whit of difference between JJ’s test in Carrick in the 70’s and that of today. Driving in traffic tests the ability to clutch and brake and that aforementioned ‘spatial awareness’ thing, being aware of things in the space around you and the body’s position in its space.

Driving at 50 k/ph for a half hour does little to test the adrenalin – soaked adolescent. About 70% of all fatal crashes occur on regional and local roads. A more stringent test would be like that of  the Trim to Kildalkey road, onto Athboy and back to Navan. Dealing with farm machinery, overtaking tractors, cyclists and the like and changing a wheel on the way should all be a better test of a driver’s ability. What about a night time drive or in varying weather conditions?

I would propose a second test after two years, taking in motorway driving, parking in shopping centres and driving in crowded areas. As practically every young person has the ambition to drive, it should be part of the school curriculum in conjunction with drink driving awareness, drug taking, speed, and having talks by victims of crashes.

The car is a lethal weapon that kills some 1.2 million people world-wide, annually. Let the bicycle be promoted as a wonderful means of transport. The use of public transport and walking should also be encouraged.

Alas, how does the EDT system compare with what existed beforehand? Let’s compare the pass rates from random driving test centres, keeping in mind that the EDT system was introduced in April 2011.

  2008 2009 2011 2012
Longford 58.6% 50.4% 59% 64%
Navan 57% 53% 51.5% 50.98%
Sligo 62.5% 67% 66.5% 69.6%
Portlaoise 60.4% 41.4% 45% 42%










Sligo and Longford centres show a slight increase in their pass rates. But, look at Navan – the pass rate last year is down 7% on  ’08 and Portlaoise is extraordinary in that their pass rate is down nearly 20% on ’08, while drivers in Sligo have a 20% better chance of passing than in Navan. Put another way, drivers in Sligo are 20% better than drivers in Meath! It does not make much sense as better standards of driving are proving true in road death and serious injury figures. Ireland is now a leading light in Europe and the world so why doesn’t the test pass rates reflect such in this county or Laois, for instance.

Where does that leave the EDT system? Before April ’11 there were no compulsory lessons; then it was 12 such lessons of one hour’s duration and the standard falls in Meath and Laois while it rises in Longford and Sligo. Incidentally, there was 1 fatal collision in Laois in 2011 and none in ’12. Yeah, those damned statistics. With the new standard of instruction, there’s no reason that the pass rate should reduce to any extent. A lot of people are concerned that failure rates in the NCT garages and driving test centres might relate to a financial clause. I just hope it does not.

Soon, a driving instructor may accompany a candidate during his/her test. It’s crumbs from the master’s table as there can be no further input from the ADI.

I would recommend that a camera or cameras be placed in the test vehicle (during the test) and that there be two testers and the option of the ADI being present. Afterwards, there should be a consultation process before a result be concluded. Of course it would delay the system. A result need not be instantaneous – let it arrive in the post in days or a week.

Pope Francis is changing the way of The Curia after that system of governance of the Church being in place for aeons. There is no right of reply for the candidate who fails the driving test. The cost is rising at every turn: each day for the motorist  is a Good Friday – s/he’s being crucified financially. It’s time for the dictatorial system to fade quickly. That being said, I hasten to add that the testers and supervisors that I know are basically honest and hard working. As Con O’Houlihan used say, maybe the problem is with the sums.

Posted by Louis on May 28, 2012

Pressure Coming on Unaccompanied Learner Drivers

By law, a learner driver must be accompanied by a fully qualified driver of at least two years standing and must also display an ‘L’ plate front and rear.

In a recent Garda survey throughout the country, it was discovered that compliance was not far short of 50%. Some 2,200 drivers were checked and 946 (43%) were unaccompanied by a full licence holder and 660 (c. 30%) did not display ‘L’ plates. Many offended in both categories. With summer upon us, the Gardai have made it known that there will be higher vigilance in the areas of speeding, drink and drug driving, non use of seat belts and the chestnut cracker of a mobile phone to the ear.

Yet, the law is not heavy-handed with young people and most will suffer a Caution if certain conditions apply.

Every young person setting out on  their driving mission should be taken to a morgue and made view the body of a crash victim – young, innocent, loving, invincible, with his family members standing there, numb.

Then, they should have on their driving syllabus the contents of a family impact statement like that of Margaret Sheehan which was read out at Cork Circuit Court recently. The judge said that it should be compulsory reading for all drivers. It read, in part –

‘There are places and moments in time that we all for one reason or another will never forget. Standing in the morgue in Cork City that morning the situation became a reality. The words and whispers that had been following us around for the previous few hours were now real. Our beautiful son  … was gone from us. Lying still, cold and lifeless in front of us, covered in a single white sheet – he lay silent in a world completely at odds with that in which his family stood.’

And there’s much more words of free-flowing expression from that mother’s grieving heart.

Nobody wants to be reminded, especially those who live the loss, and they are many. I am not saying that young drivers are responsible for all the worst situations out there. No, but we can’t get away from the cold fact that the record shows, that of all fatal crashes in any recent year, up to one third involved a driver between 17 and 25 years.

Learning to drive comes easy to most young people. With tuition, almost all become competent. As I emphasise to those who have progressed in the short few months, it then takes a few years to acquire the wisdom of the road. Apprenticeship is defined as a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a structured competency-based set of skills. Whether it be a bricklayer, a thatcher or a solicitor, each must go through the learning process for which there is no quick fix. Hence, a period of apprenticeship.

It’s the same for the learner driver who must be patient and, as a sage from Cavan once advised, ‘Progress slowly.’ Noel Brett and Traffic Commissioner O’Mahoney continually harp on that those recently invoked laws are there to provide a high standard of training for the novice and to protect them from the lurking harm that’s out there. Other drivers are immediately made aware, by means of the display of an ‘L’ plate, that such driver is in the learning process and may need extra space and a little protection from the hum and hassle that is a busy thoroughfare. Yes, there are those who may show little respect for a Learner Driver, perhaps that’s part of learning the trade: the world and her mother can’t go half fast enough for certain people.

Parents should advise their child of the intricacies of car insurance. Read the terms over carefully and, maybe, consult your broker. For, it should be noted that where a learner driver who is not complying with the terms of such licence and is involved in an accident, that driver is covered for third party liability, but their insurance provider may not cover any other costs and may seek to recover costs relative to the non compliance.

Overall, road deaths are down on last year which is great news. April, though, saw an increase of ten deaths on 2011. If you are a young driver, don’t invite your mother to compile a victim impact statement. It will kill her.

Posted by Louis on June 29, 2011

When a Good Driver Fails, It’s Tough

Drivers of all shapes and makes, of the adequate genre and inadequate genius have one common denominator when it comes to the driving test – they believe that it fails them, and not that they fail it, when they fail it. For those who do not come up to the mark when the bar is raised, when a little perspiration is evident, there’s the Post Mortem without the Pathologist. Well, it’s what we all do every day in our lives, whether related to important matters or just the weather. ‘Why’ is the question. In the case of Cormac Reilly, last Sunday’s referee in the Kildare – Dublin match, he’s around somewhere listening to all the comments and getting feedback on why he gave the infamous free; there’s the T.V. and Press analysis, not to mention the tried and trusted interpretations of the multitudes who change wine into water at their beloved hostelry .

In a driving test situation, the tester is rarely confronted over his or her marking or Test Report. They will state that they are not permitted to discuss the reason they applied a particular fault in Grade 1, 2 or 3. However, they may give feedback on some aspects of the test, if requested. This is in the form of being merely told that the marking system is explained on the back of the Report Sheet – that’s the colourful sheet outlining the various faults and grades applied to any particular test. An example of a fault may be given by a tester but, they won’t refer to the fault(s) incurred by the driver who may have failed. Any applicant who fails a test may appeal the matter to the District Court which may allow or reject the appeal. If allowed, the applicant is merely permitted to re-sit the test free of charge; however, the Court has not the power to order the grant of a Certificate of Competency in the case.

Interpreting the Driver Report Form is another day’s work. For example, under the heading ‘Take Proper Observation,’ there are seven sub-headings for scrutiny. We’ll take the one ‘turning left.’ So, a fault will be incurred if a driver doesn’t take adequate observation before and while turning left (into a junction.) This is where the ambitious and well-trained driver fouls up on test day and wonders aloud where this fault came from. Firstly, the correct position on the left has to be taken up, then there should be a check on the rear (internal) and left wing mirrors and, while more likely in 2nd gear’s speed, look into the junction before and while entering it. Reason being,  there could be a cyclist, for instance, moving up on the inside and intending to proceed straight on; (should the driver not have observed him, there could be a little impact and the one who’s insured more often than not  pays the piper.)  Then, there could be an obstruction within the mouth of the junction – say, a pedestrian moving across. Hence, the reason for the mirrors and observation.

The applicant will often believe that he or she complied with the correct steps and wonders again and again where the fault could have come from. The tester doesn’t require X-ray eyes to see if the turn was done safely and adequately. It will all be quite obvious. This is how well a driver has to interpret this one manoeuvre that, in itself, appears simple and puerile. There are about one hundred such ‘faults’ to be negotiated in the pressurised half hour that is the driving test. And, in looking further at the same ‘turning left,’ there are other considerations to boot. At no. 11 paragraph comes the headline, ‘Maintain reasonable progress and avoid undue hesitancy when,’ you guessed it, ‘turning left.’ So, not only have you to take good observation before and while entering the junction – and you can only do that by being in a low gear – you must also get on with the job at a reasonable pace. It does appear slightly contradictory. And, just in case you thought there was no more to ‘turning left,’ there’s further headlines for consumption by the hard pressed applicant; under further headings he must, ‘position the vehicle correctly and in good time;’ ‘give correct signals in good time,’ ‘adjust speed to suit/on approach,’ and ‘yield right of way as required.’

Those manoeuvres may seem simplistic to the regular or even average driver who never had an accident, drives ten miles every day and is aged over 50. Yes they would say it’s a ‘cake walk.’ The real problem that I see with such a turning is the cyclist moving up on the inside or the pedestrian moving across an obscured junction, suddenly. It is very hard on an inexperienced driver to impose all those technicalities. That’s why this new system has come into operation, to give such driver more time to learn and practise. So why then does the more seasoned driver have a problem with those technicalities, one might ask. It may be that they acquire habits which are fairly safe and they get by having the odd scare or close call, or indeed, no such close calls at all.

The RSA’s reply to all who whinge about the high standard of the test and the likes of those nit-picking sub-headings, is that there were 212 deaths on our roads last year and many more times that in serious injury. Safety requires a higher level of awareness to danger that lurks within every junction, especially when you can’t see into it.


Posted by Louis on June 15, 2011

Some Aspects of the Driving Test – Reflections

The present Essential Driver Training (EDT) programme goes some way in meeting the demands of a learner preparing for life in the driving lane. However, with a mere twelve compulsory lessons, it falls far short of the Australian or Continental standard, which, in the main, imposes thirty or more such lessons plus ongoing  practice sessions. It was a missed opportunity by our Transport  Department to bring us up to a level that now appears beyond the horizon should the current adopted system remain in place for the long term. We are told it is subject to review in a year or two – why should there be such need so soon after implementation and the years of research used before implementation? The answer lies in its basic groundwork. Its concept lacks substance. The fatal accident statistics remain damning in that the category age of 17 to 25 for young men shows no sign of abating.

It was upon those aforementioned countries and others that the Road Safety Authority based its interpretation of the current adopted standard, the Theory Test, NCT, Graduated driving Licence, practice and the driving test. For now, we play with the hand which we are dealt and await further change.

Opportunity for the student  plays a large part in this EDT programme. That means access to a car, having insurance under the Road Traffic Act and the availability of a sponsor, like a parent or friend, for plenty of practice thus allowing the learner to gain the essential hours of experience in all the aspects of good driving –  better observational skills, consideration for other road users, appreciating a high standard of safety, exercising self control and the dangers associated with risk taking and aggressive driving.

Having acquired those skills and experience, together with a study of the Rules of the Road, the time comes for getting to the driving test as it now stands and won’t change much in the near future. With notice of the test comes a sheet titled ‘Final Checks for your Driving Test.’ There’s two full pages of suggestions for preparation and they should be analysed carefully, especially with regard to Learner Permit, the vehicle and discs displayed on the windscreen. There’s a cursive check done on the vehicle by the tester for roadworthiness, maintenance levels and compliance with the law. This includes brake lights, indicators, ‘L’ plates, amber lenses being amber and not a faded white etc. With all of those in order, the engine is started up by the student with a view to getting on the road – but not just yet. Should a ‘systems warning light’ appear on the panel, the test is cancelled. Just like that. This warning light can be simple or serious, from windscreen washer being too low to alternator failure. As far as the tester is concerned it’s black and white: the test is cancelled without argument. Harsh words. There’s no comeback for the poor student, except through a renewed application and pay for same again.

While the technicality of such a mechanical problem is acceptable, what of a brake light or indicator bulb blowing during the half hour warm up practice before the test. There’s no opportunity allowed for repairs. A whole day has been taken off work for the test and even the experience of it, win lose or draw, is also lost. A brand new car can suffer such technical failure as a blown bulb. So, isn’t it cruel treatment in the light of all the preparation? The applicant is blameless in such instance, yet the same result stands. I will put this proposition to the RSA and see what is their response. Pit such instance against that of a tester falling ill; the applicant is merely told the test is cancelled and will be given a new date in due course – yes, go home, with the good news that you haven’t failed or lost your application fee, but you must get another day off work when notification arrives again. Meanwhile, there’s more preparation in the form of fine tuning with a driving instructor and the small headache that goes with the day itself.

Of course there’s other areas of this test which fall far short of the finished article. Now you must know about motorway driving, getting on and off the motorway, dealing with the woefully different speed aspects, correct lane positioning, tolls etc. But, it’s all a bit like the advertisement for Harp lager some years ago with Sally O’Brien and the way she might look at you and how that thirsty man would love to quench his thirst ‘if he had a pint of Harp.’ A learner is not allowed drive on the motorway even while under instruction with a driving instructor. Then, a few hours later, that 17 year old passes his test and is permitted to negotiate the spider’s web that is the motorway, alone.

On our regional roads and narrow country roads where most fatal crashes occur, there is no test. How many can change a wheel or drive in adverse weather conditions? Those challenges remain excluded from our revamped test. No matter, there will be another review down the road or is it just a further kicking of the can?

Then there’s the Test Report Form – next,  I’ll look at aspects of the marking system and some of its technicalities.