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The RAC Foundation has proposed that learner drivers who fail their driving tests multiple times should be required to pay higher fees for retakes. This measure aims to encourage individuals to better prepare before attempting the test again, thus alleviating the “unacceptable” backlog of driving tests, according to the motoring charity.

The RAC Foundation pointed out that the current pass rate of 48% is insufficient and must be improved to reduce the backlog that has accumulated since the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, driving instructor Lewis from Shift Driving School criticized the proposal, noting that while action is needed, not all test failures are due to a lack of readiness. “There are factors like nerves on the day, human error, and even neurodivergent conditions such as ADHD or Dyspraxia, which make it harder to focus under pressure,” said Lewis. “Having a stranger suddenly get into the car with you can be incredibly tough, and it’s easy to make errors under such pressure.”

Lewis also highlighted issues with test availability and misconceptions about test routes. “Many learners are traveling to different areas because they can’t get a test in their own region or they believe certain areas have ‘easier’ test routes, which is nonsense. A competent driver should be able to handle any road,” he said. “Moreover, private learners are booking slots far in advance without proper training, taking up spaces that could go to more prepared candidates.”

Lewis acknowledged the urgent need to address the backlog but suggested that additional funding to train more examiners would be a better solution. “In Gateshead, I do think that we have a great bunch of examiners and I feel that there are enough of them, but there is still quite a backlog.”

Emmily Bowes, a 22 year old Student who passed her driving test on the third attempt shared her experience, emphasizing that even well-prepared learners can fail. “My instructor was amazing, and he made me do my mock test with another instructor from the school, but when the examiner got in I felt like I just went blank, I made one silly mistake on each of the two attempts and that resulted in a fail”.

Bowes has said that she’d spent around £1,800 on her lessons and tests before finally passing in May this year.

Steve Gooding, head of the RAC Foundation, noted, “Of the nearly 2 million practical car driving tests conducted last year fewer than half resulted in the candidate being awarded a full licence”.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) have declined to comment, citing the ongoing appointment of a new government.