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Driver Licensing Changes Proposed

June 10 2002

Older drivers would have a choice of driver licence test under proposed changes to the driver licensing system announced today by Acting Transport Minister Judith Tizard.

The changes, released today for public consultation, would also give all drivers the option of booking practical driving tests over the phone.

The proposals would give older drivers the option of sitting either the existing older driver test or a new conditional licence test which, if passed, would restrict them to driving in areas that had a speed limit of 80 km/h or less.

“The conditional licence would allow older drivers to continue driving without exposing them to the risks associated with high speed. Many older drivers are either not comfortable or do not wish to drive in high speed areas. Conditional licences would give older people more options for obtaining a licence and for continuing mobility,” said Ms Tizard.

Other changes proposed for older drivers would:

- Allow older drivers to renew their licence up to six months before the expiry date (while retaining the anniversary of original expiry) and

- Remove the “automatic only’ condition for older drivers who pass the test in a vehicle with an automatic transmission.

Another change would see all drivers have the option of booking their practical driving test by phone using a credit card.

The proposals relating to older drivers, and proposed changes for commercial drivers could increase licensing fees for these drivers ranging up to 90 cents, said Ms Tizard.

“A phone booking could cost between $9.70 and $11.70. However, phone bookings would be optional, and we expect for those who did choose this option, the costs would be offset by no longer having to travel twice to visit their testing agent.”

Under the proposed changes for commercial drivers, those aged 25 years or over would be allowed to reduce the time spent in each licence class from six to three months, and even more if they successfully complete approved courses.

Ms Tizard said the consultation would allow the views of New Zealand drivers to be taken into account before any changes are introduced.

"The changes are aimed at making the driver licensing system more responsive to people's needs, but we need to hear what New Zealanders think about these proposals and how the changes will affect them."

Several of the proposed changes are the result of an independent review of the driver licensing system carried out by Pricewaterhouse Coopers in 2000.

“The system is currently running well overall. The proposed changes are refinements and would make the system more responsive to what people are telling us is needed. “

The government is also seeking feedback on a proposed new training and assessment system for moving novice drivers through the Graduated Driver Licensing System. Rather than pass a one-off practical driving test, the trial would look at approved assessors evaluating and grading novice drivers in a series of driving tasks carried out over time.

“As part of this we would also examine how best to implement a proposal to require novice drivers to record their supervised driving experience in a logbook. As this is a trial, it is not proposed to amend the driver licensing rule at this stage. However, including it in the consultation process on the rule gives people the opportunity to comment on the trial”

Submissions on the proposed changes close on August 2 and can be made by post or e-mail, using a form on the LTSA website, Detailed material on the changes can be downloaded from the website or copies can be ordered by ringing 0800 699 000.

The proposals can be viewed on the LTSA website at Questions and answers on some of the key proposals are attached.


Driver Licensing Proposals - Questions and Answers

Proposals relating to older drivers

1. Why is a conditional licence being proposed for older drivers?

The conditional licence would allow older drivers to continue driving without exposing them to the risks associated with high speed. Many older drivers are either not comfortable or do not wish to drive in high speed areas, but would nevertheless like to still be able to maintain a degree of mobility within the locality where they live eg to visit the local shops, library or doctor.

2. What would be the difference between a standard full licence and a conditional licence?

The standard licence would allow older drivers to drive in all areas. The proposed conditional licence would restrict older drivers to areas with a speed limit of 80km/h or less.

3. How different would the proposed conditional older driver licence test be compared to the current older driver test?

All the skills relating to vehicle control, safe driving and hazard detection that are being assessed in the current older driver test would also be assessed in the proposed conditional older driver test. The key difference is that the conditional older driver test would be conducted in low speed areas only.

4. How would the new older driver licensing system work?

Older drivers would have a choice of sitting either the current older driver test or the new conditional older driver test. They would not have to fail the full older driver test in order to sit a conditional older driver test.

If they passed the older driver test they would be issued with a standard full licence, or if they passed the conditional older driver test they would be issued with a conditional licence.

5. If I failed the standard test, would I still be able to sit the new conditional older driver test?

Yes. Older drivers who, for whatever reason, failed their first attempt at either the older driver test or the conditional older driver test would be entitled to one free re-test. They could choose to re-sit the older driver test or the conditional older driver test. If, for whatever reason, they failed the second test they could attempt either test again, however they would need to pay for the subsequent tests.

6. What concerns about older drivers would this address, and how?

The conditional older driver test addresses issues with people’s ability to react to traffic conditions at higher speeds. Some older drivers may be competent drivers but feel uncomfortable with the short reaction times demanded for higher speed driving.

7. What about older people who live in rural areas?

Older people who lived in rural areas and needed to drive on the open road in speed zones over 80 km/h would need to obtain the standard full older driver licence. The conditional licence would not be appropriate for them.

8. With a conditional licence, could older people still drive on the motorway and open road?

No, the condition covers sign-posted areas only, where the maximum speed is 80km/h. In other situations, while it is legal to drive at a lesser speed, it may be increasing the risk for older drivers in faster moving traffic flows.

9. Would people who would normally fail their licence now be allowed to drive - how many?

Yes, only if they later pass the new conditional older driver test. We do not know how many people who failed the older driver test would choose to take the conditional older driver test and how many would pass the test.

10. Wouldn’t removing the automatic only condition raise safety concerns? Moving from an automatic to a manual requires different skills and responses.

Driving a manual vehicle does require more skills. However, for most of their driving years, older drivers would have driven in a manual vehicle. Taking a test in an automatic vehicle would not mean they had lost their skills in operating a manual vehicle. An “automatic only’ condition on a driver licence would still apply if given on medical grounds.

11. How would the 80km/h restriction on older drivers be enforced?

The condition would be shown on the photo driver licence. Police would see this information when stopping a driver. If a driver broke this condition they could be fined $400 - it could also invalidate driver insurance.

Proposals relating to telephone booking system

1. Where did the fees come from - why would it cost so much?

The telephone booking fees would cover the cost of the LTSA processing the call, the changes to the Driver Licence Register, the test booking system that would be required to receive and process bookings over the phone, and the cost of credit card transaction fees.

2. What evidence is there that people want this system?

A recent survey of Wellington driver applicants indicated a high degree of support for the concept. Many people living in remote locations have asked for some system to be put in place to reduce the number of trips they must make to complete the testing process. This is part of the overall government intention to make services more accessible.

3. You say telephone booking would reduce compliance costs - so why would fees be so high?

Compliance costs include the cost of an applicant visiting an agent, including such things as travel time, cost of parking, transport costs and so on. The proposed telephone booking fee is thought to be lower than the effective cost of having to visit an agent twice for some people (e.g. people who have to travel some distance to the nearest driver licensing agent) - once to book the test, and another time to sit the test.

4. Once I had made a test booking by telephone would it mean that I would just turn up on the day of the test and would be able to just sit the test?

No, on the day of the driving test you would still need to do the eyesight check, present the necessary forms of identification, and have your photograph taken. You would need to allow sufficient time to complete all these requirements before the test.

5. Could I send a cheque for my telephone test booking?

No, you could only pay by credit card. When making a booking, you would need to ensure you had all your credit card details with you. These would be requested over the telephone.

Proposals relating to heavy vehicle drivers

1. Time restrictions were there for a reason - would there be a safety concern with reducing them?

Reducing the time for over 25s in each licence class from six to three months would not compromise safety because those aged 25 years and over would generally have several years of driving experience, and are more mature. (It is those under 25 years of age who are involved in more fatal and serious injury crashes than any other age group.)

The approved courses that they would be required to successfully complete to even further reduce their time in each licence class would also target risk factors relevant to commercial driving and would specify the minimum accumulated driving experience required.

2. Your proposals would discriminate against younger drivers (under 25 year olds).

Young drivers, in general, pose a greater road safety risk, because of their youthfulness and lack of maturity. The commercial driving industry itself does not support allowing young drivers to move more quickly through the system, as it may allow them to drive large heavy vehicles at ages at which overseas jurisdictions do not even allow them to hold a full car licence.

Competency based training and assessment trial

1. Why is competency based training and assessment a trial and not in the draft Rule?

The government needs to gain more information before it can decide whether or not to include competency based training and assessment in the Rule, and Cabinet has agreed that the LTSA seek public comment on this issue.

2. How would competency based training and assessment work?

A set of driving competencies would be developed. Those who opted for competency based training and assessment would undertake training with an approved competency based training and assessment driving instructor, who would teach them the skills needed to satisfy the competency standards. The instructor would assess and certify novice drivers as being competent in specified driving tasks. The novice driver’s progress would be recorded in a logbook. Once all the requirements had been met, the approved instructor would issue the novice driver with a certificate that would allow them to apply for a restricted or full licence (whichever is applicable), without the need to pass a driving test. These would be presented to the LTSA and verified, then a driver licence would be granted.

3. Would competency based training and assessment improve driving skills?

It is reasonable to expect that it would because it would allow a more comprehensive assessment of a novice driver’s driving competence over a period of time, which could include driving at night, on a motorway, on different road surfaces and in different weather and traffic conditions.

4. Why trial competency based training and assessment?

To allow the LTSA to examine its pros and cons, compared to the existing system of assessing competency using a one-off test. Also, there is a need to examine the best way to implement such a system, and the costs that it would impose on government and novice drivers.

5. Why could competency based training and assessment be better than the existing test process?

Currently novice drivers are assessed in one-off tests of a short duration that assess a limited range of driving skills. This method of assessment is known to cause stress to some people, causing them to perform well below their capability. Competency based training and assessment would include both instruction and assessment of a wide range of skills and a number of sessions with approved driver educators. These novice drivers would be assessed in more detail than those who took the one-off tests. The greater flexibility and time availability in a competency based training and assessment process would mean that novice drivers would be taught or assessed on some skills associated with safe driving that tests don’t cover.

6. How big would the trial be?

The trial would run for two years and would include up to 3,500 novice drivers.

7. How would you know logbook entries were accurate?

Some of the entries in the logbook would be made by the approved providers of competency based training and assessment courses, and these entries would be able to be easily verified. Other entries, such as the log of driving experience would need to be made by the novice driver and may need to be verified by a parent or caregiver.

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