Passing the Driving Test — A Gender Divide?


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We’ve all heard tales of women who have taken the test a dozen times. Some eventually pass and some don’t. What we don’t hear about quite so much are all the men who also take the test many times, and either give up or succeed in the end. With an emphasis on gender equality, this article looks at how many times it might take a man or a woman to pass their test, or give up on the dream.

The Test and Gender Equality

When a Blackburn woman finally passed her test, having previously failed it thirty times, it made headlines in her local paper. The man, who finally passed his test on the thirty-ninth time, was somewhere further down the page. The article finished with a call from other people who had failed their test numerous times, mentioning the woman yet again.

Just a mention, but no further coverage, was given to the man who took a lot longer. When it comes to driving, and the driving test in particular, it would seem it is still the timeworn cracks about women drivers that really make the news. Forget about equal treatment ladies, especially when it comes to driving. The data in the article came from the DVSA, who began collecting and examining test results in 2004, in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Pass Rates by Gender

Government statistics on pass rates for the years 2010 and 2011 show that eighteen percent more men than women aged 30 passed their test. The actual percentage figures were Men 69.1% and Women 51.1%. It may well have been that men did better over all, but you have to wonder whether that is down to the fact that the number of male conducted tests were around 8 times that of tests conducted by women. The actual figures were 1,497 male and 186 female instructors.

The Test Pass/Failure Rates

According to recent figures, the number of people, particularly those under the age of thirty, learning to drive has dropped significantly in the last few years. Factors that might explain this range from the government’s austerity programme, through to the costs of insuring and running a car, and of course student debt, which has risen considerably over the last six years.
Auto Express says in 2013/14, 47.1% of those who took the test passed first time, the highest figure for some years. However, during that period and especially more recently, the number of people taking the practical driving test has dropped considerably. People who live in Scotland and in the rural north of England are more likely to pass first time than people in the south, where 70% of Londoners failed the first time.

Times Are Changing

Since the pass rate figures for 2011, the picture has altered dramatically. Women drivers, according to more recent figures, are actually doing better than their male counterparts. In 2014, according to data from the DVSA, reported in Auto Express, the number of men who passed first time was 48%, and women, 54%; a huge gain over the 2011 figures. Watch out boys, things are changing!