The NZ Transport Agency is reminding young drivers that practical driving tests are about to get a lot harder.
The NZTA has been working for several months to develop a longer and more challenging restricted driving practical test to improve the safety of young and novice drivers as part of the Government’s Safer Journeys road safety strategy.
The new test will come into effect one month from today – on 27 February 2012 - and the NZTA is reminding young drivers and their parents that a substantial amount of supervised practice will be needed to prepare for and pass the harder test.
NZTA Chief Executive Geoff Dangerfield said the more challenging test has been specifically designed to encourage learner drivers to clock up 120 hours of supervised practice before they sit the test.
“The experience that young drivers gain in the learner licensing phase can help protect them once they start to drive alone. 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.
“The new test is aimed squarely at raising the standard of driving for young people in order to reduce needless deaths and injuries on our roads.”
Young drivers are most at risk during the first six to 12 months of their restricted licence phase, when they start to drive solo, and are four times more likely to crash than learner drivers.
Mr Dangerfield said the new restricted test requires a more complex driving environment, including minimum levels of traffic, multiple lanes and merge lanes within a 60-80 km/h speed zone.
“The new testing routes have been thoroughly investigated and carefully developed in order to ensure that a consistently high standard is applied across the country.”
Mr Dangerfield said the nature of the more complex and challenging test means that many current test locations will no longer be suitable, and practical testing will be discontinued at 36 locations across the country. Overall test capacity will be maintained by increasing testing capacity at the remaining 52 practical testing sites. Learner licence theory testing will continue to be available at all current testing sites.
“We are very aware that these changes will make it less convenient for some people to sit their practical tests, particularly in some rural areas, and we have not made these decisions lightly. But the reality is that we must raise driving standards if we are to reduce the appalling number of young people killed and injured on our roads every year, and we need a more challenging test to do that.”
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. Raising the standard of driving required to gain a licence with harder tests is an essential part of the solution.”
Mr Dangerfield said the NZTA was working with the New Zealand Automobile Association to develop a community-based programme to help disadvantaged drivers around the country to prepare for the new restricted test, helping offset the fact that the new testing regime will require more commitment and more time from young drivers and their families.
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.
Safer Journeys is the government’s ten year road safety strategy designed to reduce death and serious injuries on our roads. Improving the safety of road users is one of the four elements of the system. Safe roads and road sides, safe speeds and safe vehicles complete the set.
Further information about the new restricted driver licence test, including lists of locations where the new tests will be available and current locations where testing will be discontinued, can be found on the NZTA website at Changes to the restricted driver licence test.