Can someone who has been driving for five years or more pass their theory test today? It’s a question that has been doing the rounds on the internet over the last few weeks.
Most of us have been through the driving test nightmare, even if it seems like a lifetime ago! The night before your test, cramming the Highway Code, memorising the difference between a toucan and a pelican crossing, hoping that the questions you look at tonight will come up in the test tomorrow. Plus, if taken after 2002, when the hazard perception element had been added, trying to work out how many clicks you can get away with in each clip.
How the theory test works
I thought it would be interesting to see if some fully qualified, relatively experienced drivers – who have been on the road for over five years and should theoretically be 100% highway code-savvy – could pass the current DVSA theory test. The pass mark for learners today is 43 out of 50, so this is the mark that will be the make or break for our participants!
We used the the mock test in the Theory Test by miDrive app, which gives a random selection of 50 questions. I got 40 out of 50 correct questions, underestimating the amount of distance I should give other cars in certain conditions on multiple occasions. I will now remember how to avoid playing bumper cars in icy conditions – stay 230 metres away!
The theory test became a separate entity from the practical test in 1996, so some of our experienced drivers will not even have been through the multiple choice test before. Examiners used to ask highway code questions before the practical exam instead, so the highway code was still revised by all.
So how did our experienced drivers perform?
We asked 15 fully-qualified drivers to take the mock theory test and overall, our experienced drivers got an average of 40 correct answers. This is a ‘FAIL’ for our experienced drivers! Oh dear…
Does this mean that our average driver should not be on the roads? Probably not. However, it does suggest that our roads could be improved by a quick revision of the highway code every decade or so. People could do it all online from their own homes and have the opportunity to revise and retake the theory test where necessary. There would be no risk of losing your driving licence, just a larger number of drivers reading from the same rulebook. The alternative is that we are putting our young 17-year-olds through high levels of stress to achieve this 43 out 50 with a slight hint of hypocrisy!
Questions relating to stopping distances were unanimously found difficult by our fully-qualified drivers in the mock theory test, often underestimating the distance it would take them to bring their car to a stop, in good conditions as well as challenging ones (see below).
In good conditions, what is the typical stopping distance at 70 mph?
a.) 53 metres (175 feet)
b.) 60 metres (197 feet)
c.) 73 metres (240 feet)
d.) 96 metres (315 feet) – Correct answer
A raised awareness of how large stopping distances really are, in good and poor conditions, would encourage people to give other cars more space and could reduce the number of accidents. Count me in!
Back to the important question at hand. I’m sure it’s been on your mind ever since I mentioned exotic birds at the beginning of the article. What is the difference between a pelican and a toucan crossing? Answer: you can take your bike across a toucan crossing. Such relief to have that question answered, I know.
Next time – the practical test! What bad habits do experienced drivers pick up that would mean failing their driving tests if they were to take them now? We talk to driving instructors to find out the most common traps. Until then, keep looking in your rear view mirror.