Tougher driving tests proving a challenge for young and novice drivers


The NZ Transport Agency says early results from the new practical driver testing regime should put learner drivers on notice that more practice is needed to pass the new tests.

With nearly 1,500 tests conducted in the first two weeks of testing under the new regime, the overall pass rate has dropped sharply as expected, from around 80 percent under the old system to 39 percent for the new test.

NZTA Chief Executive Geoff Dangerfield said while no targets had been set, a sharp drop in pass rates in the initial stages of the new restricted tests was expected.

“The new test is much more challenging, and a much higher standard of driving is needed to pass – that is the whole point, and we make no apologies for that. The new test demands more practice and more preparation, and it will take some time for that message to filter through. As it does and as more young drivers 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 the pass rates will begin to climb. Ultimately the pass rate for the test will be determined by young and novice drivers themselves.”

Mr 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.

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.

“It’s important that we remember what this new test is all about – reducing needless deaths and injuries on our roads, improving the standards of young and novice drivers and encouraging them to take the time to develop their skills and build a solid and a safe foundation before they move on the next stage of our licensing system. We are doing young people no favours with a ‘once over lightly’ approach.”

Mr Dangerfield urged learner drivers to wait until they were properly prepared before booking an appointment to sit the new test.

“This is a more 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 six weeks 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 ( 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 link) 

Breakdowns of test results by region

Region Total Tests Pass Rate
Northland 62 25%
Auckland 632 42%
Waikato/BoP 252 31%
Gisborne/Hawkes Bay 76 29%
Taranaki 44 46%
Manawatu/Wanganui 73 34%
Wellington/Wairarapa 158 45%
Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman 32 48%
Canterbury/West Coast 82 44%
Otago/Southland 56 31%
Total 1467 39%

Breakdowns of test results by age

Age Total Tests Pass Rate

16 39 50%
17 278 40%
18 197 44%
19 158 32%
20-24 363 38%
25-29 184 36%
30-34 108 41%
35-39 54 48%
40-44 42 27%
45-49 25 26%
50-54 11 22%
55-59 4 67%
60-64 1 0%
65-69 3 0%
70-74   -
75+   -
Total 1467 39%

Breakdowns of test results by gender

Gender Total Tests Pass Rate

Male 696 38%
Female 771 39%
Total 1467 39%