To ‘L’ and back

Is there a driver on our roads today who does not recall the joys and horrors of their driving test? What a rite of passage it was – like your first kiss and your first beer, everyone has a memory.

Endless practicing of the three point turn, the fist on the dashboard and the cry to “stop”, cramming over the Highway Code and then the shock when you discovered that just about everyone you knew who had already passed their test couldn’t even answer half the questions.

Ah the memories.

Well, this month the driving test celebrates its 75th birthday, having been born on the first of June 1935.

In those 75 years things have changed dramatically. Statistics show that in 1934, 7,343 people were killed on British roads. Of course, at that time there were only 1.5 million cars on the roads, still a figure that seems surprisingly high to us. As a measure of the inflation rate, back in the good old days the test cost a mere seven shillings and sixpence, that’s 37p to you and me, and a certain Mr Beene is recorded as the first person to pass the test.

By 2008, the test had been partly responsible for the death toll reduction to 2,538 but it has to be remembered that by this time the number of cars on the road had risen to 34 million. Today the cost of taking the test has risen to a whopping £93.00 – add a further £13.00 if you take your test at the weekend.

Not all countries are quite so regimented.

In India, up until quite recently, the ability to drive a vehicle down the road and bring it to a standstill was sufficient for you to pass your test and in Ireland, thousands of motorists who had a provisional licence were automatically given full licences when the back-log of learner drivers became too much to cope with.

Ah yes, those were the days – the freedom to kill yourself and those around you without fear of interference from government busybodies.

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