Tougher driving tests pondered

LONDON (Reuters) - The government is considering introducing tougher driving tests in a bid to cut the number of deaths in road crashes, the Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The proposals being looked at could mean learner drivers having to complete a minimum period of practice before being allowed to take their test, similar to the 120 hour-requirement that exists in Sweden, the paper said.

Other possibilities include having lessons on road responsibility introduced as part of the school curriculum.

More than 3,000 people are killed and about 30,000 seriously injured on the roads every year.

Studies have shown that newly qualified drivers, particularly young men, were far more likely to be killed or hurt compared to older and more experienced motorists.

"We may need to start doing driver education while young people are still at school, introducing them to the rules, dangers and responsibilities of the road at a much earlier age," Road Safety Minister Stephen Ladyman told the Times.

"We have developed this attitude that you learn to pass the test and then you learn to drive. It's an option to have more formal training."

He said the existing test "may have to be expanded significantly and made more thorough" although he did not see a need to raise the minimum driving age from 17 to 18.

A Department of Transport report from 2000 found that in one out of every 10 driving tests, examiners had to intervene by grabbing the handbrake or steering wheel, or using dual controls, because of safety fears.

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