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Top 10 driving test facts

The driving tests been going for more than 75 years - here are a few facts:

Mr Beene was the first person to pass the driving test in 1935: he paid the grand total of 7/ 6p (37.5p) to take the test

there were no test centres in 1935 so you had to arrange to meet the examiner somewhere like a post office, train station or town hall

the test was suspended for the duration of World War 2 and didn´t resume until 1 November 1946

in 1975, candidates no longer had to demonstrate hand signals

the theory test was introduced in 1996, replacing questions about the Highway Code during the practical test

driving was much more hazardous 75 years ago, 7,343 people were killed on Great Britains roads when only 2.4 million vehicles were in use - in 2008, 2,538 people were killed with 26.5 million vehicles on the road

candidates could book their theory test online for the first time in December 2001

the pass rate in 1935 was 63% compared to 46% in 2009

1969 saw the first driving test set for an automatic vehicle

since 1935 more than 46 million tests have been taken

Development and timeline of British driving, road safety and driving test

The first recorded sale of a manufactured motor car was to Emile Roger of Paris, who bought a petrol-driven Benz.

1907 Cabs with meters began operating in London.

1930 Regulations introduced covering endorsements and fitness declaration. The Road Traffic Act 1930 introduces licensing system for public service vehicles (PSV). In the early days of motoring, one licence covered both cars and motorcycles use. Age restrictions and a form of driving tests brought in for disabled drivers. Full licences for disabled drivers valid for 1 year.

1931 PSV drivers could be required to take a test, at discretion of Traffic Commissioners. The first edition of the Highway Code was published including advice for motorcycle riders.

1934 Licences for lorry drivers were introduced on 16 February 1934 under the Road Traffic Act, 1934 - the licensing authority could require the applicant to submit to a practical test of their ability.

1935 Voluntary testing was introduced on 16 March 1935 by the Road Traffic Act, 1934, to avoid a rush of candidates when the test becomes compulsory. Mr J Beene was the first person to pass his driving test, at a cost of 7/ 6d (37.5p)

1935 Compulsory testing was brought in on 1 June 1935 for all drivers and riders who started driving on or after 1 April 1934:

around 246,000 candidates applied the pass rate was 63% between 9 and 16 half-hour tests were conducted each day by 250 examiners

Those passing the motorcycling test did not need to take another test to drive a car. The test was conducted by the examiner positioning themselves at a point where they could observe the motorcyclists riding such as beside a common or in a city square.

In the case of sidecar outfits or three-wheelers, the examiner might have accompanied the rider.

Examiners were responsible for:

handling the booking of driving tests

they met candidates at pre-arranged locations such as car parks or railway stations because there were no test centres

Other road safety milestones included:

anyone buying a driving licence must put L plates on the car and eventually take a driving test to get their full licence

a 30 miles per hour (mph) speed limit was introduced in urban areas

windscreen wipers were used for the first time

1937 Speedometers and safety glass in windscreens were made compulsory on 1 January 1937.

Provisional licences were brought in for heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.

1939 Driving tests were suspended on 2 September 1939 for the duration of World War 2. During the war, examiners were redeployed to traffic duties and supervision of fuel rationing.

1940 HGV licences and tests were suspended on 1 January 1940 because of World War 2.

1946 Testing resumed on 1 November 1946 following the end of World War 2 the previous year.

1947 The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations placed motorcyclists in their own licence group, but testing remained virtually unchanged until the 1960s.

On 18 February 1947, a period of 1 year was granted for wartime provisional licences to be converted into full licence without passing the test.

1950 The pass rate for the driving test was 50%.

1951 Zebra crossings were introduced with Belisha beacons provide advanced warning of new pedestrian crossings.

1956 The test fee doubled from 10 shillings (50p) to £1 on 19 October 1956.

Testing was suspended from 24 November 1956 during the Suez Crisis. Learners were allowed to drive unaccompanied and examiners helped to administer petrol rations.

1957 Testing resumed on 15 April 1957 after the Suez Crisis.

Provisional licences were no longer stamped with passed test from 15 July 1957.

The 3-year driving licence was introduced on 1 September 1957 under the Road Traffic Act 1956. The fee for a replacement licence, if lost or defaced, rises by 150% from 1 shilling (5p) to 2/ 6d (12.5p).

1958 From 1 March 1958, provisional licences are valid for 6 months.

The M6 Preston bypass was the first stretch of motorway built in December 1958.

1959 A new examiner training facility was acquired at Stanmore training school, near Heathrow. Until then, examiners were trained on the job.

The M1 was officially opened on 2 November 1959. In the early days it had none of the following:

speed limit

central reservation

crash barriers

motorway lighting

1961 From 1 July 1969, learner riders were restricted to machines of no more than 250cc capacity in order to deal with the high number of motorcycling fatalities.

1962 From 1 April 1962, people who had held more than 7 provisional licences were required to take a driving test. If they failed to do so, the licensing authority could refuse a further application for a licence.

1963 The Road Traffic Act 1962 permitted riders to ride motorcycles of more than 250cc after passing their test. New grouping systems were introduced for driving tests and driving licences and a distinction was made between the test of competence and the test of fitness. Mopeds were placed in their own vehicle group for driving test purposes.

1964 A voluntary register of approved driving instructors (ADIs) was set up under the Road Traffic Act 1962. To become an ADI you had to pass stringent written and practical tests.

1965 Centralised licensing system was set up at new Swansea Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre (DVLC), taking over licence issue from County/Borough councils.

The application form for a driving or motorcycle licence was revised from 1 May 1965. The medical standard for eyesight was changed. The distance from which a driving test candidate must be able read a number plate was changed to 67 feet for 3 1/8 inch high characters.

1967 On 10 May 1967, The Road Safety Act 1967 paved the way for regulations covering the licensing and testing of HGV drivers. The Driving and Motor Licences Division (DMLD) began promoting safe driving through film and TV shorts.

New drink-drive laws came into force on 8 October 1967. The legal limit was 80mg alcohol in 100ml blood.

1968 The test fee was increased to £1 and 15 shillings (£1.75p) on 2 July 1968.

1969 Changes to the driving test from 2 June 1969 included:

vehicles used in the test must not have dual accelerator control unless this had been made inoperable

a separate driving licence group for automatic vehicles was introduced

candidates were required to produce their driving licence to the examiner at the test and sign the examiners attendance record - examiners could refuse to conduct a test if these requirements were not met

The Vehicle and Driver Licences Act introduced new regulations from 25 June 1969, including a licence fee increase and the specification of vehicle groupings for the purposes of driving tests.

An up-to-date scheme was introduced for licensing and testing new lorry drivers on 4 August 1969.

The first official driving manual was published in November 1969., Called Driving - the Ministry of Transport Manual, it was priced 12/ 6d (62.5p).

1970 All driving instructors now had to be officially registered. A total of 3,500 people are prosecuted for driving on a forged licence or wrongfully attempting to obtain a licence.

The new HGV test prompted a change in PSV testing. Previously, vehicle inspectors had carried out PSV driving tests: this was taken over by HGV qualified examiners.

1972 The demand for driving tests rose by 20% in 1972, and a further 15% in the following year, leading to a huge backlog of tests.

The minimum age for riders of motorbikes over 50cc was raised from 16 to 17 from 16 December 1972.

1973 Crash helmets were made compulsory. The top speed for mopeds was set at 30mph.

Computerised driving licences were issued from 1 March 1973, with green paper licences replacing the old-style red booklets. A full licence was still only valid for 3 years.

3.30 1975

Candidates no longer have to demonstrate arm signals in the driving test from May 1975.

1976 Full licences become valid until the age of 70 from 1 January 1976.

In July 1976, the Stanmore training school where examiners were trained was relocated to new premises at Cardington, Bedfordshire. Newly recruited L test examiners had to undergo four weeks of training.
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