Driving theory test pass rates hit their lowest in 15 years

Driving theory test pass rates are the lowest they have been in 15 years, according to data released by the DVSA.

The pass rate now stands at just 44.2 per cent, compared to 65.4 per cent in 2007/8.

And there is a huge disparity between the success rate across different regions – with those in Aviemore, Scotland most likely to pass (73.5 per cent).

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In contrast, new motorists in Hornsea, Yorkshire are least likely to come away with the qualification (23.6 per cent).

It comes after a study of 12,903 motorists, by AA Driving School, found just 18 per cent think they could pass a theory driving test if they had to retake it.

An overwhelming nine in 10 admitted they don’t understand all road signs – with 26 per cent of these saying this happens very often or sometimes.

A separate study of 12,598 drivers revealed knowledge of stopping distances was also an issue – with fewer drivers knowing the right answer the faster the car is travelling.

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At 20mph (in dry conditions), 38 per cent correctly said the stopping distance would be between 11 and 20 metres.

But only 24 per cent could identify what the stopping distances would be at both 50mph and 60mph.

And just 23 per cent knew it takes 96 metres to stop when travelling at 70mph – with nine per cent believing it took less than 50 metres.

The analysis comes as the AA Driving School launches a new theory test app to tackle the problem.

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App will tackle common mistakes made when taking theory testsApp will tackle common mistakes made when taking theory tests
App will tackle common mistakes made when taking theory tests

Behind-the-wheel safety

Managing director Camilla Benitz said: “The theory test pass rate went up briefly during the pandemic when fewer people were taking it but it’s now lower than ever.

“Learners face enough challenges as it is at the moment with the driving test backlog. We don’t want the theory test to be another hurdle for them which is why we’ve created our new app.

“The fact so many qualified drivers also struggle with important elements of driving theory such as road signs and stopping distances just shows it takes revision and practice to get to grips with the questions and the hazard perception.

“We want to help learners do this in an easy-to-manage, enjoyable way.

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"Users will be able to use flash cards for quick revision sessions, both on and offline, as well as track their progress with real-time statistics.”

The DVSA data shows learner drivers in Gairloch, Symbister and Ullapool are among those most likely to pass their theory test.

But those in Fakenham, Bradford and Uxbridge are not so lucky – being most likely to fail.

To aid those who find it difficult, the AA Driving School App is designed to present up to 700 different theory questions and hazard perception clips to users.

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Keanan Lloyd-Adams, young driver social media influencer, said: “There’s loads for learners to take on board when they start lessons and the theory test can feel intimidating but it’s got to be done.

“My generation always has access to a phone now so using an app to pass your theory test is a great way to get your revision done – it’s the best way I can think of.

“My own experience, and from what I see on social media, learning to drive is a really key moment in your life when you turn from a child to an adult.

"Crucially, when you pass your test you have others' lives in your hands, which is a huge responsibility.

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“Making sure you really know your theory is an important first step to becoming, and staying, safe behind the wheel.”

* DVSA5201 Theory car pass rates - annual summary (Year - Pass rate)

2007/08 - 65.4

2008/09 - 65.4

2009/10 - 63.8

2010/11 - 63.1

2011/12 - 60.8

2012/13 - 59.1

2013/14 - 51.6

2014/15 - 51.0

2015/16 - 49.3

2016/17 - 48.7

2017/18 - 48.7

2018/19 - 47.3

2019/20 - 47.1

2020/21 - 55.7

2021/22 - 50.1

2022/23 - 44.2

The 10 test centres with the highest theory test pass rate

  1. Aviemore - 73.5
  2. Gairloch - 69.0
  3. Symbister - 64.3
  4. Ullapool - 62.2
  5. Castlebay (Isle of Barra) - 62.1
  6. Kyle of Lochalsh - 60.8
  7. Tarbert (Isle of Harris) - 59.5
  8. Craignure (Isle of Mull) - 58.8
  9. Brechin - 58.5
  10. Tongue - 56.5
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