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36 attempts to pass the driving test – and 90 goes to get past the theory test…

Time 6 years ago

L platesTODAY is the 80th birthday of the driving test, so road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist has gathered a few facts to mark this important road safety milestone.

GEM chief executive David Williams says: ‘The driving test has had a positive and significant impact on road safety from its very first days. A year after it was made compulsory in 1935, road deaths in the UK fell by 1,000.’

Here are GEM’s fun facts:


  • The record for the number of tests taken currently stands at 36.
  • A 26-year-old woman from Southwark, London, failed her theory test at the 90th attempt in November 2010 – meaning she forked out nearly £3,000 before even gaining the right to sit a practical test.
  • 246,000 candidates put themselves forward for a driving test in 1935, the first year of compulsory testing. The fee was seven shillings and sixpence, and the pass rate was 63 per cent.
  • Today, the test centre with the highest pass rate is Gairloch in Scotland. In 2014, 16 people took their test here and just one failed, giving a pass rate of 93.8 per cent.
  • Whitby in North Yorkshire has a pass rate of 65.4 per cent and Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, boasts 65.5 per cent.
  • Belvedere in London lays claim to the lowest pass rate, with merely a whisker over 30 per cent of candidates finding success.
  • Rock legend Ozzy Osbourne took 19 goes to pass his driving test.
  • It was only in 1975 that candidates could complete the test without the requirement to demonstrate arm signals.
  • The average pass rate of the theory test is just 51 per cent; that’s down from 65 per cent in 2007.

And around the world…

  • Legislation introduced in Russia at the beginning of this year means transsexual and transgender people, fetishists, exhibitionists and voyeurs, as well as pathological gamblers and compulsive thieves, no longer qualify for driving licences.
  • Spain’s Highway Code is believed to be Europe’s most in-depth driving rule book, with three times as many rules as in the UK. However, the practical driving test is described as a ‘group excursion’. Spain has one of the highest road mortality rates in Europe.
  • In Pakistan, the practical test involves one simple task: driving through a short course of cones. There is an 80% pass rate.
  • Mexico has no test. Simply buy a licence for 626 pesos (£28).
  • In Japan, you can fail your test if you do not bend low enough to check the underside of your car for concealed cats.

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Colin Channon's avatar

Colin is a former editor of Car Dealer. He left the magazine in August 2015.

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