Hamilton teen failed restricted licence test because fuel light turned on

STUFF

17-year-old Michael O’Brien was going for his restricted license on Monday afternoon in Frankton.

VTNZ have apologised to a Hamilton teenager who failed his drivers licence test because the fuel light came on. 

Michael O'Brien, 17, sat his restricted driving licence test at the VTNZ in Frankton on Monday afternoon. 

He had passed the pre-drive vehicle checks in his parents' 2004 Honda Odyssey and was 20 minutes into the 45 minute test when the instructor told him he'd failed - all because the fuel light came on. 

Michael O'Brien, 17, pictured with dad Jesse O'Brien, was told he had failed his restricted driver licence test because ...
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Michael O'Brien, 17, pictured with dad Jesse O'Brien, was told he had failed his restricted driver licence test because the fuel light turned on halfway through.

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Dad Jesse O'Brien said it highlighted the "ridiculousness" of some of the driving test processes, as neither VTNZ or NZ Transport Agency guidelines say insufficient fuel could be grounds for an immediate fail.  

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A test officer at the VTNZ in Frankton, Hamilton, made a mistake in failing Michael VTNZ general manager operations Greg ...
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A test officer at the VTNZ in Frankton, Hamilton, made a mistake in failing Michael VTNZ general manager operations Greg O'Connor said.

Despite going up for the test for a second time, Michael went into it feeling competent and comfortable.  

"He was totally confident - as I am - in his ability as a driver," his dad said. So it took them both by surprise when Michael was stopped partway through.

The paperwork issued by the test officer said Michael failed due to a 'vehicle fault', giving the reason for failure as insufficient fuel. 

"We were gutted," O'Brien said. 

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When a person sits a practical driving test, at either restricted or full licence level, the car is subject to pre-drive checks. 

The test officer must check whether the car has a current warrant of fitness, any obvious damage to the body that could be considered dangerous, functioning indicators, brake lights and horn, and sufficient fuel to complete the test. 

VTNZ define sufficient fuel as "enough to get to your testing location, complete the test and then get you back home". 

While O'Brien was "no expert" he said he would comfortably drive around with the fuel light on, and had never run the car out of gas. 

After doing some research, O'Brien found the fuel light would come on in a Honda Odyssey when there was between 10-15 per cent of petrol left in the tank. 

The owner's product manual showed between 7-9 litres of fuel would allow for 100 kilometres of travel, he said. 

"If our 65 litre tank had 10 per cent, that's 6.5l, well more than the required amount [to do the test, and get home]." 

After calling around and getting "ambiguous" answers, O'Brien made a formal complaint to VTNZ. 

General manager operations for VTNZ Greg O'Connor told Stuff in the event the fuel light does come on during the second stage of the restricted driver licence test, the officer should continue.

"Regrettably in this instance, the officer involved has made an error."

"VTNZ have now spoken with the officer to remind them of the correct process," O'Connor said. 

VTNZ had since apologised to Michael, offered him a full refund for his test fee ($86.60) and the opportunity to re-sit the test for free. 

O'Brien said they were stoked with the outcome - which elicited some "fist pumps" from Michael - but hated to think what others were settling for. 

"The overarching concern for me is how many other people are going in and not thinking, 'hang on, that's not right'."  

"It didn't sit right for us, so we followed the process and fair enough [we were right]."

O'Brien said parents should do their research and understand the testing process, so they are in a better position if they don't agree with a decision. 

"Knowledge is power - if you feel something is unfair or unjust, question it." ​

In 2017, 45 per cent of people who sat a restricted licence test in New Zealand failed, according to the NZ Transport Agency. 

 - Stuff

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