Driver licensing review timely

The announcement of an immediate review of the graduated driver licensing system has been welcomed by, among others, motorsport champion and road safety advocate Greg Murphy. While not all may agree with his view the existing system is broken and regressive, we know many drivers get stuck in the system and do not reach full licence status.

Announcing the review this week and the two-year reprieve for more than 144,000 on learner and restricted licences due to expire in December 2021, associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said there were many reasons why people did not move on to the next licensing stage.

The five-year limit on the time for those on these licences, without having to re-sit the theory test, was introduced in 2014.

That followed concern too many novice car drivers and motorcyclists were not moving up the system to full licensing and so had not demonstrated they had the skills and competence to drive safely on the roads.

Ms Genter said time-limited licences made sense in theory, but there also had to be acknowledgement that people without the resources, training or support to pass the tests risked becoming unlicensed when the time was up.

One issue highlighted in recent years is the number of drivers who fail practical tests.

Publicity given to instances where failures were due to apparently minor errors may have also put off some new drivers.

One young driver who failed because he bumped the kerb during his parallel parking described it as demoralising to drive home with his licensed driver to see other drivers behaving badly, including texting and not signalling when changing lanes. He asked whether the test could be shown to make sure drivers were safe.

Murphy wants the review to include examining the value of sitting a final full licence test and whether defensive driving courses are delivering a positive outcome, statistically.

Drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 are at a disproportionately higher risk of crashes than the rest of the population.

The 2016 Auckland Co-Design Lab's Driver Licensing Challenge report said in some cases the enforcement regime around driver licensing could be increasing the likelihood of reoffending.

It said 85% of drivers aged 16 to 24 breached their learner or restricted licence conditions, while 40,000 young people were ticketed for breaches annually, but many did not pay their fines, making driver licence offences a "primary gateway into the justice system".

One suggestion from the lab was a merit points system to recognise and reward compliance by new and learner drivers, rather than just punish them for wrongdoing.

In recent years, there has been an increase in work done by various groups around the country to help people, including prisoners, to get driver's licences. In June, the Government also introduced a scheme, including the cost of professional driving lessons, to help those receiving the youth or young parent payment or in Oranga Tamariki care.

More is needed. Over the next two years, the Government will launch a communication campaign encouraging drivers to progress, develop additional programmes to help disadvantaged young drivers access licensing, and expand access to driver training and resources in schools.

Murphy sees the biggest barriers to gaining a full driver's licence as access and affordability. He estimates in many provincial areas it costs an average of $1000 to gain a full licence.

The lab report questioned the user-pays model which is based on the premise the individual receives all the benefits of being licensed. It argued there were considerable social and economic benefits when uptake of licensing was high and costs to bear when people opted out.

The detail of the Government review has not been spelled out, but hopefully it will draw on a wide range of views and expertise to ensure any future changes are practical and likely to improve road safety.

 

Comments

I was Driving Instructor in NZ for over a decade & also an approved advanced driving school, which meant I could take Court ordered drivers for an assessment. There were only a couple of us in NZ able to do that.

The comment about a driver failed for bumping a kerb yet drove home seeing others txting etc is very relevant. I am sick of hearing people say “make the test tougher for the young ones”. The current 3 tests could not be passed by 85% of current drivers.

In the 90s, NZ was to go to a system where lessons from an instructor (logbook kept & standard required) could substitute a test. This is done successfully in Aussie.

The next comment is that NZ drivers do not like their driving analysed so promote theory training. Such courses like “Defensive Driving” (a brand named course owned by the AA) and school programmes are useless.

It is dumb when the parents who teach the kids their bad driving habits - could not pass the test themselves! The student is the one who has just passed the Theory test, not the parent!

The solution – instructor based testing & retesting for all drivers to ensure they are currently competent & safe.

And who tests the instructor?.

In countries/ states where instruction is in lieu of testing, instructors are approved via professional body (in NZ the NZIDE) & govt agency (NZTA). Even back in the 90s, i had peer reviews, 6 monthly (LTSA) inspection, & proof of external training. I did that by the fact I ran instruction technique courses for the local polytech, passed as a NZQA assessor, assessed by the NZIAM & I was an approved DI in the UK for an ambulance service. I also visited Aussie to see how their assessment system worked and my report was part of my PD standards.
So yes the instructors who would be allowed to sign off student logbooks would be tested well above your expectations!
Acronyms explained
NZIDE = Institute of Driving Educators
NZTA = Transport Agency, the current govt dept of all things roads & driving who set high standards for instructors.
LTSA = Land Transport Safety Authority (the previous NZTA)
NZQA - Qualifications Authority who set national standards for syllabus & training manuals.
NZIAM - Institute of Advanced Motorists who assess drivers to the highest world standards using the System of Car Control UK Police manual.
DI = Driving Instructor
PD = professional development.

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