Officer punched after driving test failed

An enraged learner driver allegedly punched the test officer who failed him on his test at an Auckland testing centre on Monday.

The officer was attacked by an applicant who had failed a practical driving test at the Meadowlands office about 3pm, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) spokesman Andy Knackstedt said.

The testing officer was completing paperwork following the test when the applicant entered the office and struck the testing officer, Mr Knackstedt said.

The assault was reported to the police, who were given the registration number of the applicant's vehicle.

New Zealand Driver Licensing (NZDL) and the NZTA were supporting the testing officer and were deeply concerned by the incident, he said.

"While we understand that driving tests can be stressful and that failing a test is disappointing, there is never any excuse for threats or physical violence directed towards testing officers or others carrying out their duties.

"NZDL and the Transport Agency will investigate any concerns or disputes about the outcome of a test through an established complaints investigation process."

A police spokeswoman said they had received the complaint and were investigating it.

Mark Chapman, the general manager of the PassRite driving school - which was not involved in the incident - said learner drivers got frustrated from time-to-time, which is why it was crucial to have well-trained driving instructors who were suited to the job.

"You could have the perfect testing officer and a crap kid; conversely you might have a great kid and a crap testing officer.

"A lot of it comes down to how the individual is handled at the time ... taking time and walking away and recognising there is an issue," he said.

"Being an instructor is a lot like being a school teacher and you've got to have the ability to not only teach people, but you've got to have the ability to coach and mentor. It's a case of recognising the trainer that has those qualities."

Mr Chapman said while he supported the new, more difficult, driving licence tests, the cost of the tests was a rip off.

An AA spokeswoman said because the officer was not an employee, the organisation would not comment on the incident.

Five driving lessons with the AA in Auckland costs $335. The AA recommend 120 hours of supervised driving practice before sitting a full licence test.

There were 15 reported incidents of verbal or physical abuse on driving test officers in the year to October 2013 and 16 others in 2012.

By the numbers:

* a learners licence test costs $96.10;

* a restricted licence test costs $137;

* a full licence test costs $111.70;

If you need to re-sit the exam the cost is:

* $47.40 for learners test;

* $88.30 for restricted licence;

* $61.70 for full licence.

- By Sophie Ryan and Rebecca Quilliam of APNZ

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