Fail your driving test the first time? Here’s why it’s probably not your fault

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Kayleigh Dray
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Ah, learning to drive: it’s a rite of passage that almost every UK teenager is forced to go through – and, for some of us, it can prove incredibly difficult to upgrade those L-plates. Maybe we left the handbrake on for the first 10 minutes of our driving test, or we forgot to check our mirrors when we attempted to parallel park. Maybe we just… maybe we just couldn’t parallel park. Maybe our three-point turn was something more like a 53-point turn. And maybe, just maybe, it took us more than one go at the driving test before we secured our pink licence (some of us, this writer included, are still trying).

But we all remember those people who breezed through their lessons, aced the theory with zero preparation and nailed the driving test on the very first go about a week after their 17th birthday. Do you know why we remember? Because they kept banging on about it for evermore.

However, as it turns out, we shouldn’t let their bragging make us feel inferior. Because, according to new research by car insurance company Privilege DriveXpert, there’s a pretty compelling argument as to why so many people fail their tests the first time.

After analysing data from 1,570 drivers, researchers found that academic prowess could dictate our success on the roads.

Less than half of graduates pass their tests the first time, according to the data – and 47% of people with a masters or other post-graduate equivalent take an average of 1.9 attempts to pass.

The firm also revealed that those who go on to own a company tend to take more than two pass attempts, on average, before being allowed to hit the roads.

Dr Lee Hadlington, a senior lecturer in psychology at De Montfort University in Leicester, told Prima that, of course, it’s not a case of believing those who choose academia are more ‘intelligent’ and less practical, say, but that different paths in life require different skill sets.

“We know that driving is a very ‘procedural’ task that requires the coordination of lots of individual actions at any one time; this is a lot different to the skill set we use when studying for a formal qualification such as a degree,” he explains.

“It might be that those individuals who are better at procedural-based activities are in professions that also require those same skills, hence they don't have formal academic qualifications such as degrees. It's not a question of ‘typical intelligence’, but more the different skill sets used for the different task.”

Charlotte Fielding, head of Privilege Drive Xpert, added: “Passing first time isn't the be-all and end-all of driving ability as many of the main skills we need to equip ourselves for our driving careers are learned over the years as our experience on the roads build.”

We knew it. And, more importantly, there’s another possible excuse to use when our parents next point out that our little brother/sister passed first time and just when are we going to get our s**t together and get a driving licence of our own?

That and, y’know, can they pick us up from the train station, because… well, because we can’t drive, OK?

Images: Paramount Pictures


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.