Driver fails five times but backs test
Carmen Penny is more familiar than most with the demands of the new restricted-licence test - she sat the test five times.
But the Hamilton 18-year-old, who got her restricted licence in September, is diplomatic about the rigours of the new test, under which Waikato pass rates have dropped from 82 per cent to 48 per cent since February.
"As horrible as it is to fail, I don't think they should make it easier," Carmen said.
"The level of driving by some people is quite shocking so the test needs to be challenging. I was just frustrated at the time, because some of the things they were failing me on were quite minor."
Carmen said her assessors explained why she had failed, with reasons such as holding up traffic, incorrect signalling at roundabouts, stalling the car and driving too slowly on an open road.
Carmen's mother, Carolyn Penny, spent about $1600 on driving tuition and testing fees for Carmen and shared her daughter's frustration.
Mrs Penny said she had often driven with Carmen and described her as a good driver.
"Some of the things they pulled her up on were minor.
"I drove around with her for a year and couldn't pick what was wrong and her driving instructor kept saying she was ready to sit the test."
The new restricted-licence test was introduced in February and includes a more challenging practical drive.
The NZ Transport Agency's Waikato and Bay of Plenty regional director, Harry Wilson, said the drop-off in pass rates was expected but defended the harder testing regime.
He said pass rates were increasing now that people were putting in more practice, with teenage learner drivers' pass rate 51 per cent.
But feedback from Waikato Times readers showed that people were divided on the merits of the new testing regime.
While many believed driving standards had to be improved, others who sat and failed the test questioned the level of feedback they got.
The Transport Agency's principal adviser for driver training and test standard design, Jim Furneaux, said the agency expected testing officers to provide feedback to drivers about their performance at the completion of their tests.