Is it time to re-evaluate Ireland’s driving test?

Rachael Dunphy

The 2022 national average for the driving test pass rate is 53.2 according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA). A figure that shows roughly half of those who attempt their driving test fail.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones when it comes to driving in Ireland. In late 2022, I passed my driving test on the first attempt, after an eight-week waiting period, considerably lower than the national average. 

However, despite my new full driving licence, I have never been taught to parallel park or how to safely drive on a motorway and my knowledge of the mechanics of my car is limited. 

This is no fault of the driving instructor I attended to complete my 12 mandatory EDT lessons, as none of these techniques are examined in the current driving test in Ireland.

Driving education and training was taken over by the RSA when the authority was established in 2006.

However, it wasn’t until 2011 that Essential Driver Training became mandatory, when a learner driver had to complete 12 one-hour lessons with an accredited instructor. 

It would be impossible to teach every possible scenario that could happen on the road in 12 hours, however as someone who has gone through the system so recently, I believe there is a massive need to re-evaluate the driving test. 

The three biggest components of the Irish driving test are the hill start, the 3-point turn, and the reverse around the corner. As someone who lives in a town set on a hill, a hill start is a necessity, as I think it is for anyone undertaking their driving test.

A 3-point turn, although it may not be used as often as a hill start, is still a useful skill to have in your back pocket in case of emergency, changing direction, or getting yourself out of a parking space.

However, I can admit I have not reversed around a corner since the day I passed my driving test. In the weeks leading up to my test, I spent hours with both my driving instructor and sponsor attempting to successfully reverse around a corner, with a few tears thrown in. I actually spent more time stressing over that element of the driving test than any of the others combined. 

I think there are a lot more roadworthy and important elements of driving that should be added to the driving test. Parking of any kind, whether that be parallel, driving into, or reversing into a car space would be a more useful skill for a novice driver.

Parallel parking is a honed skill that takes time and patience in learning, and in my experience, is one I’ve used more often than reversing around an inclining corner. 

Another essential skill in driving is navigating a motorway. Currently, learner drivers in Ireland are not allowed on a motorway, whether they be accompanied by a fully licensed driver or not.

This means that often new drivers’ first time on a motorway is often unaccompanied by another driving licence holder to help them navigate any possible situations that may arise. 

Although it would be difficult to enforce an additional EDT lesson to teach novice drivers to drive safely on a motorway, perhaps an additional theory element could be introduced for learner drivers and their experience on the motorway. 

With such a low national average for the driving test pass rate, it seems obvious that new regulations for the test need to be on the horizon in the next few years.

Learning to drive in Ireland isn’t cheap, with a test setting you back €85, and a further €55 for the licence if you pass your driving test.

With the climbing cost of driving and the low pass rate, it’s no surprise that in 2019 60% of females aged 18-24 and 50% of males in the same age breakdown didn’t hold a driving licence.

Rachael Dunphy

Image credit: Getty Images