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John MacDonald: The only solution is to make people pay

Publish Date
Mon, 29 Apr 2024, 12:27pm
Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

John MacDonald: The only solution is to make people pay

Publish Date
Mon, 29 Apr 2024, 12:27pm

Remember it wasn’t that long ago that, if you saw someone doing some dodgy driving, you’d wonder whether they got their licence in a WeetBix box. 

I haven’t heard anyone use that line for a while. 

But what it meant, of course, was that someone’s driving was so bad it looked as if they didn’t have to do anything to get behind the wheel, to get their licence. 

Just like a rugby card or whatever else you get in a WeetBix box, that’s how they got their driver’s licence - for free. 

And it’s still a little bit like that with this crazy regime brought in by the last government, where you can sit your driving test as many times as you like without having to pay extra. 

I think it’s crazy because there’s a flat fee - which came in just before the election last year - and Labour thought it was a good idea because of the thinking that having a driver’s licence opens up a whole new world of opportunities and there shouldn’t be any barriers stopping people from being able to drive. 

Especially when it comes to employment and getting a job, which is true. If you can drive, there are more work options open to you. 

But, you know, talk about unintended consequences. Or maybe they did know this when they brought this policy in and didn’t do anything about it. 

But what it has meant, not charging extra if someone doesn’t pass the first time, is that we now have so many people not passing their practical driving test the first time that there’s a huge backlog of people waiting. 

Here’s a stat for you. Last month alone, there were 2,000 no-shows. And why’s that, do you think? It’s a no-brainer: it’s because when it doesn’t cost you anything to re-sit, it doesn’t matter whether you turn up to a booking or not. Does it? 

And so, all the driving test people can do is just shrug their shoulders and look at the waiting list getting longer and longer. 

We can’t just blame the system, though. Even though it backfired. People are part of the problem here too. 

Because what we’ve got happening, is someone sees there’s a booking available at one testing centre. Then, they see some spaces have come up somewhere else more convenient so they book in there. But they don’t bother cancelling the original booking. 

Then you’ve got the types who decide on the day they can’t be bothered. Or a better offer comes along, and they’re no-shows as well. 

In fact, I heard from someone who does driving tests, who said that not only are people not turning up, but they also have people using the driving testers as instructors. 

So, they obviously can’t drive to the standard required, and they use the driving test as a lesson of some sort. So, there’s a real issue. 

They said they sometimes have people who re-sit the test three times and they’re no better at driving the third time than they were the first time. And this person made a very good point that these driving testers are being put at risk because of these muppets turning up not able to drive in the first place - let alone being good enough to get their licence. 

Average waiting times at the moment, for the whole of the country, are 44 days for a full licence test and 55 days for a restricted test. 

And I reckon the only solution is to make people pay for every test they sit. And that’s whether they turn up or not. 

And the reason why it should be that way is simple. It comes down to this - driving a vehicle - having a driver’s licence - is a privilege, not a birthright. That’s how I see it. 

When you arrive on this planet, there are things you’re naturally entitled to. Food, shelter, medicine. They’d be the basics. 

When you arrive on this planet, you are not entitled to have a driver’s licence. It needs to be earned. 

But under the current system, which lets you re-sit the tests as much as you like without paying any extra for it, what that is doing - is treating driving as if it is a birthright. And that’s wrong. 

So, I hope the Transport Minister does do something about this. And I hope he gets rid of this dopey system and makes people pay for every driving test they sit. 

That way, they’ll have some skin in the game, they’ll take it more seriously, and they will - genuinely - have earned the right to drive. 

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