While the government presses ahead with a consultation to make the new driving test changes more rigorous for newly qualified drivers, existing motorists have revealed a worrying lack of knowledge, a survey by uSwitch has found.
The introduction of the Theory and Hazard perception tests, taken before the practical driving test, has ensured that younger drivers have to learn the Highway Code rules in some depth, but 30 million people passed their tests before the change in regulations.
The survey of over 2,500 motorists asked what the national speed limit was – and a third of people did not know that they should not exceed 60 miles per hour on single carriageways or 70 miles per hour on dual carriageways and motorways. Accident investigators have calculated that excess speed causes 7,000 accidents per year, 14 per cent of those resulting in a fatality.
Only one per cent of those surveyed answered all 16 questions correctly, and a worrying one in every ten current drivers failed to answer a single one of the questions correctly.
Ashton Berkhauer, insurance expert at uSwitch.com, comments: "The transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, highlighted some important issues last month with the government’s plans to combat fatalities among new drivers.
"Unfortunately, our research has shown that lack of basic Highway Code knowledge is a wider issue for all drivers. We agree that tougher driving tests will improve the standard of new drivers but this doesn’t go far enough to combat the problems with so called ‘experienced drivers’. Although the total number of road accidents is falling by about five per cent each year, it’s worrying that many of the accidents can be directly linked to gaps in driver knowledge. It seems that some motorists forget the rules of the road as quickly as they tear up their L-plates."
And, in case you are shamed into checking through the latest Highway Code, only 20 per cent of drivers could correctly say that a "Stop" sign is octagonal (over half said it was round – remembering their instructors’ teaching that signs which display orders are ‘O’-shaped, no doubt) and over half could not correctly say what an amber traffic light meant (it is a warning to stop, if safe, or to slow down because the next light in the sequence will be a red ‘stop’ light). An online version of the 2007 Highway code can be found on direct.gov.uk.