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fee to resit driver's licence tests to be scrapped from 1 oct

People who fail their driver's licence tests will be breathing a sigh of relief from Sunday, when the fee to resit examinations is scrapped.

From 1 October 2023 you will only have to pay an application fee, as changing, rebooking and cancelling of tests becomes free.

The initial cost to book will rise slightly for both learners (from $93.90 to $96.10) and restricted (from $134.80 to $167.50), while a full licence will now be cheaper (from $109.50 to $98.90).

The major saving will come from the new cost being a one-off fee, which currently sits at $45.70 for learners, $59.50 for full and to $86.60 for a restricted licence.

'Everyone knows you'll never pass the first time'

The change could not come soon enough for North Shore teenager Amanda*. When First Up spoke to her, she had just failed her restricted licence for a second time, despite 15 driving lessons and countless hours driving with her mother.

Dejected, Amanda said the first test had sapped her confidence, after the examiner shamed her for a botched parallel park.

"She opened the door and she's like 'when you go shopping with your friends like you expect them to jump onto the curb?' I was like, whoa, didn't expect to hear that. It threw me off of it from there, I almost started crying because it was just really out of the blue and she just got a really bad tone."

Still confident of passing, Amanda rebooked another test, but failed that just five minutes into the hour-long examination. She was now waiting until the rebooking fee disappears, to save money.

Amanda said the talk among her peers, one of whom had failed seven times, was that the system was against them.

"Everyone knows you'll never pass the first time, which is quite weird to know that you're just never gonna pass the first time and you have to keep giving them all your money," Amanda said.

Her mother said she had seen posts on social media saying the system was designed to fail, and was prepared for the result.

"There is an expectation that no one passes on the first round. It's almost a given, which surprises me, because it's a lot of money."

She was also weighing up whether she would accompany her daughter in the back seat for the next test, something she had previously considered "helicopter parenting".

"It's a difficult one because it's her journey, right? And normally I would sit back and just go 'this is your moment.' But it does seem, especially with the first one where there's demeaning kind of conversation, it seems there's a very unequal power imbalance."

'There is no quota'

Craig Basher is the national technical manager for Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ).

He was used to hearing people's theories, but assured First Up there was no funny business going on, and that driving tests were not a money-making venture.

"There is no quota at all for restricted, full or learners' tests."

Basher said despite the online discourse, VTNZ's pass rates had remained relatively consistent for the last eight years, with a 55 percent pass rate for the restricted test and a 66 percent pass rate for a full driver's licence.

"It's all based around the how the candidate performed on the day and whether they passed all of the assessable tasks."

Basher said the most common reasons for failing were speeding through road works, not coming to a complete stop at stop signs - and poor gap selection.

Some people even fail the test before leaving the carpark.

"One of the things I will say is that when you get there, make sure you've got your licence make sure your car's fit to drive, because some people fail because the car doesn't have a WOF [warrant of fitness], or it's not registered, or the seat belts don't work, or the indicators don't work."

The eye of an expert

Alistair McGregor has run the Counties Driving School for 20 years in Auckland's Pukekohe. He said he had heard all of the excuses from people who had not passed.

Alistair McGregor of Counties Driving School advised other motorists to be patient with learner drivers rather than overtaking them or driving too close.

People should be patient with learner drivers, Alistair McGregor said. Photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

"A lot of rumours go out when students fail the test. They often feel that they've been victimised in some ways, but the reality is people fail the test because they're ill-prepared, don't have enough time on the road and then when they go out, basic errors are created and the test is failed."

He blamed a lack of preparation by learner drivers for failing, and said with more parents working full-time now, they often have less time to teach their children.

The change in standards over the years also meant parents might not be teaching their children to drive correctly.

"It's often quoted by parents 'You know, we just took 20 minute tests around the block with the traffic officer', etc etc. And so they're teaching their children out on the road skills that are not necessarily applicable or will be looked for on the restricted."

McGregor also took the chance to urge "notoriously impatient" New Zealand drivers to be kinder with those starting out.

"As soon as they see a vehicle with an L plate on or drive a training plate on, they feel a need to overtake or drive really closely now. You have to ask yourself, why would you drive close to a learner driver? If the learner driver panics and breaks hard, both vehicles are gonna be damaged.

"Everyone had to learn at some point or other, just take your time be patient with learners on the road."

*Amanda's real name has not been used to protect her privacy.


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