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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Many flunk driving test

Among all testing, driving tests don’t top of the difficulty list.  Still, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that roughly one-half of drivers taking state licensing department road tests fail their attempts.  Whether first tests or retests, drivers countrywide flunk them in huge numbers.

Unfortunately, that situation leads to a large number of unlicensed drivers roaming our streets. Department of Licensing driving exams are not that tough, so let’s get better prepared!

I support tougher and more frequent road testing, although drivers seem to be having enough difficulty dealing with what they face now.  Once a driver passes the first driving test, retesting can be ordered for “cause,” which may be too many accidents or infractions.  At the discretion of licensing examiners, retests can also be levied for apparent physical difficulties revealed during renewal visits.

Experts suggest retesting at a certain age, but I regard that practice as discriminatory.  It’s true that driving will deteriorate with age, but the degree varies widely among individuals.  Actually, according to NHTSA statistics, accident rates for drivers over 75 years of age are the lowest of all age groups.  The highest rates occur in the under 25 segment. 

One reason for the attention being focused on older drivers is that the age group of those over 65 is growing.  The large population of baby boomers, born 1946 through 1964, began turning 65 in 2011.  It is estimated that the U.S.  populace over 65 years old will double by 2030.

I feel that periodic testing of everyone is justifiable based on the driving behavior I witness.  When drivers get complacent they get sloppy — bad habits then grow if gone unchecked

Getting back to the test — whether it’s a first or a retest, passing should not be difficult with some advance readiness.

Nervousness is typical during exams, but that leads to mistakes, infractions and failure.  If you know the rules of the road, and have practiced the things on which you will be judged, you should be confident and relaxed.  Unlike a driving instructor, an examiner will not offer encouragement or advice.  Their manner will be straightforward and somber.  Simply follow their instructions and don’t be intimidated.

You will need a roadworthy vehicle, with registration and proof of insurance; otherwise the test will end before it begins.  Many skills will be observed during testing.  Moving from the curb, reversing around a corner, parking, road position going straight and turning, anticipation, reaction to and interaction with other vehicles, lane changes and turning your head appropriately to check traffic will all be judged.

 Besides specific maneuvers, you will be graded on overall competence regarding use of signals, mirrors and other vehicle controls (wipers, defroster).  Additionally, proper control of your vehicle during acceleration and stopping is a must.

Certain things will increase your chance of failure.  Proper acceleration is considered a driving skill, so a jack-rabbit takeoff will certainly be a point deduction and possible failure with some examiners.  However, accelerating too timidly from a stop light will count against you.  As with much of life, moderation is the key:  not too much or too little — in the middle is best.

An infraction will end the session with disappointment.  Observe signals and signs.  Make complete stops — a “California” or “rolling” stop will cause a flunk.  Don’t take a “free” right turn at an intersection with a sign prohibiting it, or violate any other law.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at