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Majority of people in Northern Ireland fail their driving test

By Rebecca Black

Published 22/05/2015

The percentage of people failing the driving test for cars has soared from just 36% in 2010/11 to 51% between April and December last year
The percentage of people failing the driving test for cars has soared from just 36% in 2010/11 to 51% between April and December last year

More than half of Ulster's motorists are failing their driving test, it can be revealed.

The failure rates have emerged as the Department of the Environment admits it has made the theory test harder in recent years.

The percentage of people failing the driving test for cars has soared from just 36% in 2010/11 to 51% between April and December last year.

In terms of motorcyclists, the number of failures have also increased from 20% in 2010/11 to 24% last year.

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew uncovered the statistics in an Assembly question of Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.

Mr Agnew said he believed that many people were simply giving up after failing their test multiple times, and even accused the DoE of "creating a racket" by making the theory test obscure.

It currently costs a minimum of £87 to take the driving test for a car. There is a charge of £25 to sit the theory test and £62 for the practical test (£75 if test is taken after normal hours).

The fee for the theory test is set to be reduced to £23 later this year. Mr Agnew told the Belfast Telegraph that he came across the issue when he was canvassing in North Down before the election, when he met a man whose son had taken the theory test multiple times without success.

"A constituent told me that his son had failed his theory test five times," he said.

"Many people are starting to jump to the conclusion that it is becoming a way of raising revenue.

"His feeling was that some of the questions were very strange. His son was bringing home the questions and they were looking them up in the Highway Code and couldn't find the answers.

"It seems to tutoring is not matching the test."

Mr Agnew pointed out that while his party advocates more people using public transport or cycling where possible, not gaining their driving test can have a detrimental impact on employment prospects with many jobs demanding a driving licence.

A DoE spokesman strongly refuted Mr Agnew's "racket" claim.

"In seeking to reduce death and serious injury on our roads, the theory test has changed in recent years," he said.

"It has been made much more relevant to ensuring people are able to drive.

"It requires new drivers to have a better understanding of the highway code and the rules of the road.

"Road safety, not money generation, is minister Durkan's objective.

"In fact, he reduced the cost of the theory test for car and motorcycles from £30 to £25 in October 2014.

"He has also announced that the fee will reduce again to £23 in October."

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