According to the radio, the 13th March marks the anniversary of the first ever driving test.
Terrific, I thought. That’s worthy of a post.
The only problem was I couldn’t find anything about the first test being actually ‘today’, though I did find that the driving test was introduced on March 13th, which to me isn’t exactly the same thing.
The references to voluntary tests being introduced by the Road Traffic Act (1934) in March 1935 state that this was to avoid a rush when it became compulsory as from June 1st that year.
However, anyone who had been driving since April 1st 1934 now had to sit a driving test.
Various sources state that a Mr J Beene took the first ever driving test but according to others, Mr Beene was the first person to PASS his driving test, on March 16th 1935. So, does that mean he failed on his first attempt, or the test lasted 3 days? (Or maybe it took 3 days for the paperwork to come through)
The cost at that time was 7/6d (37½ p) which would equate to about £22 today.
Source: Auto Express
The number of new drivers gaining their licence is currently at a ten-year low.
One reason could be the prohibitive cost of learning to drive. Prospective motorists have to shell out £50 just to get their provisional licence these days but that’s just the start.
Driving lessons cost on average £24 per hour and the Driving Standards Agency reckons the average number of lessons you’ll need to pass is 47.
The theory test will set you back £31, while the practical car test costs up to £75. Add all this together and drivers are forking out more than £1,250 for the privilege of getting behind the wheel.
That’s a helluva lot of money isn’t it. And that’s before you even think about insurance for a first time driver and the costs of running a car.
In contrast, these are my figures.
In October 1977, my provisional licence was £2, and I had driving lessons costing £2.30 in my lunch hour twice a week. It worked out really well because I’d drive home as the journey had everything from traffic lights, roundabouts, one way systems, hill starts, double bends and parking (plus I could see to the dog) .
By the time I sat my test the following February, my driving lessons had increased to £3 per hour.
I can’t remember how much my test actually was (it was driving only then, with a couple of Highway Code questions) but I paid an additional £6 to cover a driving lesson beforehand and use of the car (a red volkswagen Polo) for the test itself.
There were five of us learning to drive where I worked.
We all had different driving schools but had our tests in the same week, though thankfully no two on the same day. Mine was on Wednesday, but apart from my workmates and driving instructor who put me in for it, I didn’t tell anyone.
My reasons were simple: I didn’t want loads of conflicting ‘advice’ before the event (I was nervous enough as it was) and if I failed, I didn’t want anyone to know.
Both learners before me failed and told me their Examiner had a reputation for being harsh and strict in his decisions.
Come my turn, I was far from relaxed, and did more than one cock up on my pre-test lesson. My instructor told me to calm down and said ‘So what?’ if I had the same Examiner. He had confidence in me, otherwise he wouldn’t have put me forward for my test so soon. His advice was to enjoy the drive, be aware of what was going on around me, exaggerate my ‘checking mirrors’ a little, do as I was asked, and I’d be fine.
With a peck on my cheek, he wished me luck, and I was on my own.
I shook when I realised I had the same Examiner, and made sure we were both strapped in before I turned on the ignition.
Shit, I pulled away without checking my mirror, though I was indicating, had checked over my shoulder and didn’t stall. I hoped he hadn’t noticed.
The route we took was familiar, but one of the more difficult (according to my instructor) , and when I stopped at a junction, a car started to roll back from the bus stop to my left. The Examiner hit the brake before I did, and knowing in doing so I’d failed, I thought I just needed to get it over with.
My emergency stop nearly shot him through the windscreen, my hill start was faultless, and my three point turn one of the best ever (no hitting the kerb) . Reversing round a corner (that went uphill, the bastard!) , I lined the car up, started to reverse, then stopped, put the car into first gear and pulled forward. The Examiner said nothing and was getting a little impatient, until he saw the milk float coming out of the road that I was about to reverse into.
Back at the test centre, I was asked three questions on the Highway Code, and that was it. The end of my test. I waited for the bad news.
He wrote something on his clipboard, passed me a piece of paper, and told me he was pleased to say I’d passed. He shook my hand and got out of the vehicle without another word.
My instructor was waiting for me, and when I told him the outcome, he pointed to his cheek and said ‘Plant one there then,’ and drove me back to work.
My workmates were pleased I’d passed, but come the end of the week, I was the only one out of the five of us that had. We’d all had the same Examiner, and my pleasure was a little diminished when one of the others said that the Examiners only had a certain quota to pass each month, and I was lucky that I was ‘it’ that particular week.
I didn’t tell anyone else that I’d passed until the weekend, when it was the now Ex’s birthday and my pass notice was my gift to him. I gave one of my L plates to my Mum and the other to my mother-in-law.