A reader sent me a link to a recent press release, which reports that fewer learners are having crashes while on their driving tests. I was aware of it because the author, Pete McAllister, had asked me for my opinion before it was published. I was meaning to get around to reporting on it myself, but I got side-tracked and forgot. It’s a bit embarrassing really, as the “experts within the driving instruction industry” referred to is me!
At the time I didn’t know what the actual figures were, and my comments to Pete reflected that. In a nutshell, it all comes down to what caused/avoided the accident in the first place – was it the skill (or lack thereof) by the test candidate, lack of skill by the other driver, or a change in the behaviour of the examiners? Overall, it’s probably a combination of all of those things, but if I was putting money on it I’d bet most heavily on the examiners being more proactive in dealing with situations, though I doubt that the DVSA would admit to it.
However, once the report was published and I saw the figures, my immediate reaction was “what decline?” If you ignore 2014 data (because they’re incomplete), the car accident data look like this when you plot them on a graph.
There aren’t enough data to conclude that the trend is downwards. In fact, if I was analysing these data, the only figure I’d be interested in would be 2012 and why it was so high. Overall, the trend is more or less flat, and it certainly isn’t showing a major drop.
To be fair, though, the “massive drop” referred to is with the 2014 data, which so far sit at only 20 crashes (presumably for the first quarter). That would point to a figure of around 80 for the year. And that IS a big fall if it continues for the whole 12 months.
Assuming that the 2014 data remain as low as they currently appear to be, I honestly don’t know what has caused the fall. Certainly, nothing I’ve seen on any of my own tests can explain it. However, if you start to speculate, you need to have much more information – who were the candidates who had crashes previously, and what were the circumstances? Has that demographic changed in any way? I don’t think the DVSA holds that kind of detail.
I still favour the idea that examiners are more prepared to take action, and it would be useful to know if the number of abandoned tests has gone up in any way as a result. Maybe someone should do an FOI request to find out, because the DVSA would definitely know that.