Drive-test rules too tough - teen

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 08:15 02/04/2012
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Tom Johnson failed his full licence test after 90 seconds
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A New Plymouth teenager who failed his driver's licence test within 90 seconds says testing officers are going over the top while enforcing new rules.

A tough new testing regime has caused national pass rates to plummet, and Tom Johnson, 19, became one of the victims of the new rules last week.

He failed his full licence test less than two minutes after it began when he accidentally took the first left turn when he had been instructed to take the second left turn upon beginning the test.

The tester told him the test was terminated for his "failure to carry out instruction for turning", even though he had not broken any rules and had performed the turn safely and correctly.

But the New Zealand Transport Agency is making no apologies for its strict enforcement, which has seen national pass rates drop from 80 per cent to 39 per cent since the new regime for restricted and full driver licence testing was implemented on February 27.

Taranaki's pass rate of 46 per cent, while above the national average, is a drop from pass rates of 70 and 75 per cent in Hawera and New Plymouth last year.

NZTA chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said the new test was much more challenging than the old one and a higher standard of driving was needed to pass.

"That is the whole point, and we make no apologies for that. The new test demands more practice and more preparation and it will take some time for that message to filter through."

Fresh off a defensive driving course, Tom had been told to take the second left, but mistakenly took the first left instead. "I was really nervous. Afterwards I thought, 'Damn, I knew what he'd said,' but I got mixed up because I was so nervous," he said.

The official explanation for his fail states: "The applicant does not have the confidence or ability to correctly control the vehicle and does not meet the high standard required for the awarding of a full licence."

But Tom's father, Steve, said as far as he was concerned it was a driving test, not a listening test, and Tom had been driving fine.

"It would have been nice if he said, 'you obviously misheard me, let's go back to the testing station and start again'.

"I don't think he was given a fair crack of the whip. Tom's a stickler for the rules; if there was a sign that said don't walk on the grass, he wouldn't dare," Mr Johnson said.

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NZTA national media manager Andy Knackstedt said NZTA encouraged people to raise any concerns or complaints on individual tests with NZ Driver Licensing, and they would investigate the complaint.

"If people aren't satisfied with the results of the investigation, they should then contact their nearest NZTA office."

Mr Knackstedt said it was important for people to follow up on their concerns if they felt they had been treated unfairly.

"The new tests have deliberately been made more challenging to raise driving standards and improve safety, but we are also keen to ensure that they are being applied consistently and fairly," he said.

Tom said although he was still disheartened about being failed, he would try again.

"I'll give it another crack. But I'll still be nervous."

- Taranaki Daily News

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