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3 minute read Learner Drivers

How have driving tests changed over the years?

The driving test is the final challenge for all learner drivers, and the gateway to newfound freedom. But how has it changed since its birth in 1935?

by Jemima Lewis

When the driving test was introduced in January 1935, there were 1.4 million cars on the road. The drivers of these vehicles saw over 7,000 fatalities in 1934. As such, driving tests were made compulsory in June 1935 and consisted of:

  • An eye sight test
  • Questions on the highway code
  • ‘Show me’ questions for signalling
  • Stopping on the side of the road
  • Emergency stop
  • Reverse around a corner
  • Three-point turn in the road

You may have noticed that it’s not all that different from the test we have today – but there was one major different. Because the cars of this decade had no indicators, drivers had to demonstrate hand signals to turn, slow down, and allow other cars to overtake. These were similar to the hand signals cyclists have to make now, or the ones that your driving instructor should have taught you to make in the event that your indicators stop working.

Between 1939 and 1945, driving tests were suspended due to the war and then reintroduced in 1946. Then, in the 1950s, the end of petrol rationing saw an increase in car sales; resulting in a demand for more examiners so that more tests could take place. In this same decade, driving tests were suspended once again because of the Suez Crisis. During this period, learners were allowed to drive unaccompanied by a driver with a full licence.

In April 1991, the reverse parking manoeuvre became a compulsory part of the test.

The pass plus scheme was introduced in November 1995. This was a scheme to help new drivers gain experience with driving in different environments; such as on the motorway.

In July 1996, the theory test was introduced – meaning that questions on the highway code were no longer asked during the practical tests. 2000 saw the theory test get on board with modern technology by being completed on computers instead of paper. The hazard perception element of the test was then added in November 2002.

Learners could have their driving instructor in the car with them during their test as of 2010. Some people find this helpful because you can get more in-depth feedback from your driving instructor when the test is over. 2010 also saw independent driving become part of the test. This part of the test was recently extended in December 2017 with the introduction of sat nav use; however, not every test uses them.

In this same month, the test also saw a few other changes. Along with the introduction of the sat nav, drivers now have to answer one ‘show me’ question while driving, and one question at the beginning of the test before they start driving. The three-point turn and turn in the road, however, were dropped from the driving test.

So, there you go – the driving test hasn’t changed too much! But would you rather do the test in 1935 or now?


If you think you can handle a driving test now, then get our Learner Driver Insurance with cover for as little as 2 hours!

Jemima Lewis

Hi I’m Jemima! I'm a new member of the Veygo team! Since passing my driving test I drive everywhere and love the freedom it gives me!

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