History of the Driving Test
Want to know your driving test history?
Find out here...
how the UK driving test has evolved
When you're involved in something special in your life it makes so much sense
to find out all there is to know about the subject...
So, as you're searching for information about passing your driving test I thought you'd be
interested in this.
The Driving Standards Agency produced a document showing how the driving test has evolved
since it first began in the 1930's
I've included a section of it for you on this page...
It's interesting reading...See if you can find the Mr Beene connection.
Hope you enjoy it!
The Driving test timeline
Age restrictions and a form of driving tests brought in for disabled drivers. Full licences for
disabled drivers valid for a year.
The Road Traffic Act 1930 introduces licensing system for PSVs.
PSV drivers could be required to take a test, at discretion of Traffic Commissioners.
First edition of the Highway code introduced.
16 Feb 1934
Licences for lorry drivers are introduced under the Road Traffic Act, 1934. The licensing authority
may require the applicant to submit to a practical test of their ability.
Voluntary testing is introduced by the Road Traffic Act, 1934, to avoid a rush of candidates when
the test becomes compulsory.
Mr J Beene is the first person to pass his driving test, at a cost of 7 / 6d (£0.37.5 new
1 Jun 1935
Compulsory testing brought in for all drivers who started driving on or after 1 Apr 1934:
around 246,000 candidates apply
the pass rate is 63%,
250 examiners taking at least nine, and up to sixteen, half-hour driving tests a day.
Examining staff also make all test bookings. There are no test centres, examiners meet candidates at a
pre-arranged spot such as a car park or railway station.
Anyone buying a driving licence must put ‘L’ plates on the car and eventually take a driving test to
get their full licence.
2 Sept 1939
Driving tests suspended for the duration of World War Two and resumed on 1 November 1946. During
the war, examiners are designated Traffic Officers and supervise fuel rationing.
1 Jan 1940
HGV licences and tests are suspended during World War Two.
18 Feb 1947
A period of a year granted for wartime provisional licences to be converted into full licence
without passing the test.
The pass rate for the driving test is 50%.
19 Oct 1956
The test fee doubles from 10 shillings to £1
24 Nov 1956
Testing suspended again during the Suez Crisis. Learners allowed to drive unaccompanied and
examiners help to administer petrol rations.
Testing is resumed on 15 April 1957 and has continued uninterrupted ever since.
Examiner training transferred to the newly acquired Stanmore Training School. Up until now,
examiners have been trained ‘on the job’
New grouping systems are introduced for driving tests and driving licences and a distinction is
made between the test of competence and the test of fitness.
The Road Traffic Act 1962 permits riders to ride motorcycles of more than 250cc after passing their
Mopeds are placed in their own vehicle group for driving test purposes.
1 May 1965
The application form for a driving licence is revised.
The distance from which a driving test candidate must be able read a number plate is changed to 67
feet for 3 1/8 inch high characters.
10 May 1967
The Road Safety Act 1967 paves the way for regulations covering the licensing and testing of HGV
2 Jul 1968
The test fee rises to £1.15 shillings.
2 Jun 1969
Vehicles used in the test must not have dual accelerator control unless this has been made
A separate driving licence group for automatic vehicles is introduced.
Candidates are required to produce their driving licence to the examiner at the test and sign the
examiner’s attendance record. Examiners may refuse to conduct a test if these requirements are not fulfilled.
25 Jun 1969
The Vehicle and Driver Licences Act introduces new regulations, including a licence fee increase
and the specification of vehicle groupings for the purposes of driving tests.
4 Aug 1969
An up-to-date scheme is introduced for licensing and testing new lorry drivers:
The new HGV test prompts a change in PSV testing. Until now vehicle inspectors have carried out PSV
driving tests: this is taken over by examiners who are now HGV qualified.
The demand for driving tests rises by 20%, and a further 15% in the following year, leading to a
huge backlog of tests.
Candidates no longer have to demonstrate arm signals
The Driving Establishment for testing examiners moves to Cardington. Newly recruited ‘L’ test
examiners undergo four weeks of training.
Passenger service vehicle (PSV) driving tests become compulsory. Up until now, Traffic
Commissioners decided whether local applicants took the test.
From now on driving tests are conducted under the provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
1 Oct 1989
Prompted by alarming accident figures, the old-style ‘Part 2’ motorcycle test, where the examiner
stands by the roadside, is replaced by the new, more demanding ‘pursuit test’. The examiner now follows the
candidate on a motorcycle or in a car and maintains radio contact during the test.
1 Apr 1990
The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is created as an executive agency of the Department for
1 May 1990
Examiners give candidates a brief explanation of faults committed during the test, plus advice on
areas for improvement.
The Pass Plus scheme is introduced to help newly qualified young drivers gain valuable driving
experience and reduce the risk of them being involved in an accident.
1 Jul 1996
A separate written theory test introduced, replacing questions asked about the Highway Code during
Candidates now have to produce their provisional driving licence for their test.
1 Jan 1997
A new test category is created for a car with large trailer (B+E).
Licence categories and tests are introduced for Direct Access and small motorcycles
The written theory test is introduced for LGV and PCV drivers.
1 Mar 1997
Photographic ID is now required for both practical and theory tests
1 Jun 1997
If a new driver gains six or more penalty points during the first two years of driving, they lose
their licence and must retake both the theory and practical driving test before being allowed back on the roads
29 Sept 1997
For Car and Motorcycle Drivers, the minimum wait between tests of the same category is reintroduced
for unsuccessful candidates, set at ten days.
For Lorry and Bus Driver testing, a minimum wait of three days between tests of the same category
for unsuccessful candidates is introduced.
6 Apr 1999
Cars being used for a driving test must now have a front passenger seat belt, head restraint and
4 May 1999
Changes to the ‘L’ test include extending the length of the test, randomising the emergency stop
manoeuvre and failing candidates for committing 16 or more driving faults
4 Jan 2000
The touch-screen theory test is introduced.
1 Feb 2001
People gaining a full car licence must now take CBT before being able to ride a moped.
19 Dec 2001
Candidates can now book their theory test via the internet
14 Nov 2002
A hazard perception element is introduced into the theory test; this uses video clips to test
candidates’ awareness of hazards on the road.
01 Sept 2003
Show me/Tell me vehicle safety questions added to the beginning of the driving test.
24 Oct 2003
Candidates can now book their practical driving test via the internet.
03 Sept 2007
The theory test changed by increasing the number of questions from 35 to 50 with 43 correct answers required
The score for the hazard perception test remains unchanged at 44 out of 75.
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