Learner drivers could be offered financial incentives to pass their driving test first time, under proposed government plans described as the "biggest shake up of the driving test in a generation".
The plans have been put out to consultation by the Department for Transport (DfT) amid concerns that just one in five people (21%) pass their driving test at the first attempt.
Learner drivers currently pay up to £75 to take their driving test, but under the new proposals the driving test fee would be reduced by requiring learner drivers to pay a deposit when they take their test, which they would get back if they pass.
The consultation states: “There is anecdotal evidence that some learner drivers are booking a practical test date well in advance, at the start of their lessons, and then taking the test at that time whether or not they are ready.
“It is in the interests of candidates, instructors and examiners that candidates take the practical test only once they are properly prepared.”
Drivers between the ages of 17 and 24 years make up just 7% of motorists but account for almost a fifth of accidents and it is hoped this initiative will help reduce that rate.
Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said: “We want to make learning to drive safer and more affordable. This change will give those who pass first time some money back and provide an incentive for learners to be more prepared before they take their test.
“These common sense proposals mean that all learner drivers can feel the benefit. This consultation is a really important step and we want to hear all views.”
Experience equals safety: TRL
The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has welcomed the proposal while at the same time stressing that its effectiveness will need to be monitored.
Shaun Helman, head of transport psychology, said: “We know that the more on-road experience young drivers accumulate, the safer they become.
“We also know that the older drivers are when they pass their test, the safer they are. Therefore any initiative that encourages learner drivers to be as prepared and mature as possible before they begin driving alone should be viewed positively.
“However, like all road safety initiatives, it will need to be monitored to ensure that the desired outcomes are being achieved.”
The consultation also sets out proposals to introduce more driving test appointment times, including weekends and evenings, and offer tests from a range of venues.
The DfT is inviting views on the proposals and the consultation will close on 8 January 2016.