A Driving Instructor's Blog

A reader sent me this link to a story in The Sun (registered at the Post Office as a comic).

Under an FOI request – the first one of the year, and filling column inches now that Picka a card - any cardthere’s no snow to talk about – The Sun has discovered that around 5 tests a day during 2011/12 involved someone cheating or trying to cheat on one of the driving tests – by getting someone to do it for them, attempting to bribe the examiner, or even threatening physical violence. The majority were impersonations, however.

I do like some of the comments at the bottom of the story. The average Sun reader seems to be under the impression that showing a photo at the time of taking the test would solve all these problems.

Actually, candidates already do that: there’s a picture on their driving licence. But one huge problem with this is that not many people look anything like their photos to start with – even while the photo is still damp out of the instant-snap machine in the Co-op (those damned things must have a setting inside called “criminal”, because everyone looks like they were waiting to be put in a police cell overnight in them). Some were maybe going through a goth phase, or had just come out of one when they had the photo taken (I get loads of them), and the absence or otherwise of face metalwork, or the kaleidoscope range of hair colours and styles really puts a cat among the pigeons. And what if little Jonny or Kylie suddenly had a growth spurt a few weeks after sending off for their provisional?

The reality is that much of this attempted fraud is among people from countries where bribery and corruption is official government policy, and where identification from the data transferred to the UK is unreliable at best (some people change their identity in their home country, then that new persona is the only one they’re known by when they arrive in the UK). In many cases, the citizens of some of these countries have photos where they have black hair and long beards (even if that has changed since they moved to the UK).

So, a grainy photo is NOT going to resolve anything when someone dishonest decides to capitalise on this confusion.

Sorry, “crazy woman from Manchester” (the weirdo who wrote to me a while back), but this is exactly why the impersonators get away with it:

THEY LOOK ENOUGH LIKE WHAT THE PERSON THEY’RE IMPERSONATING USED TO LOOK LIKE FOR THE EXAMINERS TO GO AHEAD WITH THE TEST.

They know this, and they utilise the fact in their fraudulent endeavours. They know that the examiner daren’t raise issues for fear of being labelled racist, because unfortunately there are enough “crazy woman of Manchester” types around for this accusation to be made at the drop of a hat.

Examiners often stand back and do a double-take when they look at photos of my pupils. Much of the time they also consider who has brought the candidate to test – is it an ADI they know, or is the candidate unaccompanied? But if examiners put a block on just because someone looked a bit different from their photo, about 95% of all tests would get cancelled.

Biometric ID is the only way – and some people would even find a way around that.

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