Tougher driving tests still a challenge for learner drivers


The NZ Transport Agency says updated results from the new practical driver testing regime should serve as a reminder to learner drivers that a high level of preparation and practice are needed to pass the new tests.

After nine weeks and nearly 9,000 tests conducted under the new regime, the overall pass rate is currently sitting at 41 percent, up from 38 percent for the first month of testing but well below the pass rate of around 80 percent under the old system.

NZTA Acting Chief Executive Stephen Town said while no targets had been set, a significant drop in pass rates had been expected when the new testing regime was rolled out on February 27.

“The new test is more challenging, and a higher standard of driving is needed to pass. We expect that pass rates will continue to gradually increase over time, as the message filters through to more learner drivers and they begin to put in the kind of preparation and practice needed to raise their skills to a higher level. Ultimately the pass rate for the test will be determined by learner drivers themselves.”

Mr Town 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. 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.

“We need to 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 Town urged young drivers and their families to take advantage of free resources available to help develop safe driving skills, including the NZTA/ACC Practice programme ( which is specifically aimed at helping young drivers get 120 hours of supervised driving under their belts before sitting the restricted test, and, where parents can find a wide range of tools and practical advice on how to help teenagers stay safe on our roads.

“Parents have a huge role to play in improving the safety of our young drivers, and these websites provide some great free tools to help them play an active role in teaching teens – without passing on their own bad habits.

“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 Town 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

Breakdowns of pass rates for March and April 2012 by region and age follow*

Region March 2012 April 2012
Northland 15% 29%
Auckland 40% 35%
Waikato/BoP 33% 42%
Gisborne/Hawkes Bay 31% 38%
Taranaki 39% 52%
Manawatu/Wanganui 51% 47%
Wellington/Wairarapa 37% 45%
Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman 47% 46%
Canterbury/West Coast 45% 49%
Otago/Southland 41% 48%
Total 38% 41%
Age March 2012 April 2012
16 54% 61%
17 42% 45%
18 41% 45%
19 37% 33%
20-24 37% 37%
25-29 37% 41%
30-34 39% 37%
35-39 35% 26%
40-44 28% 30%
45-49 20% 32%
50-54 21% 24%
55-59 19% 21%
60-64 10% 0%
65-69 33% 0%
70-74 0% 33%
75+ 0% N/A
Total 38% 41%

*New practical driving tests introduced 27 February 2012