December 15, 2022

Arduous Driver Tests Make Safer Roads: Lessons From the Dutch

While media in British Columbia are chatting up the high cost of vehicle insurance for drivers that are eighteen years of age, a quick look at how young drivers are examined and tested in the Netherlands suggests that more stringent testing makes more careful drivers.

As written by Kea Wilson in Streetsblog, most new Dutch drivers flunk the “rijexamen” the first time they are tested, and the fatality rate in the Netherlands is one third of that in the United States. The pass rate for first time driver’s tests in British Columbia was 50 percent in 2020 even though it is not as complex.

So how hard  is the Dutch driver’s exam?

There are several factors contributing to lower road fatalities in the Netherlands: road design,  an acceptance and culture embracing active transportation infrastructure, slower driver speeds in cities and of course rigourous driver education.

As Ms. Wilson writes “According to local driving schools, about 48 percent of test-takers in the Netherlands will fail either their written or on-road test in a given year, which is roughly on par with states like Arkansas (47 percent) and Oregon (46 percent). Notably, neither U.S. community nor Holland actually require would-be drivers to take a formal driver’s education course — even though Oregon officials note that 91 percent of teens involved in crashes didn’t take one.”

The difference is that it is pretty impossible to pass the driving test without professional driving lessons.

The emphasis is also on the driver recognizing they are a potential hazard to others. While 80 percent of of Dutch residents eventually pass the test, it is 89 percent of Americans that do. The difference is also the availability of transit and biking infrastructure that means you don’t need a vehicle to get around.

The Dutch are more stringent about seniors driving too: all Dutch drivers 75 years or older must be medically assessed and can be required to take the whole driver’s exam again.  In British Columbia it is not until the age of 80 that drivers must have a medical examination report prepared every two years. The test examines cognition, eyesight and physical health.

Only two percent of those  medically examined elderly drivers in British Columbia  lose their driving license, and no, they don’t need to take a driving test.

Two years ago even this primary medical assessment for seniors was paused because of the pandemic. It has not yet been reinstated. And it should-Data collected from Statistics Canada in 2009 suggest that close to 28 per cent of drivers over 65 years and older are driving vehicles with some form of dementia. Statistics Canada data from 2012 shows that over the age of 70 years seniors have a higher accident rate per kilometre than any other group except for young male motorists.

Seniors are also more likely to die in a vehicular crash.

You can take a look at the video below that describes some of the questions that are on the Dutch driver exam. The type of questions  on the exam may surprise you.






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  1. Also, all students in The Netherlands are taught how to cycle safely. A friend from The Netherlands was very proud of her cycling training course certificate. If you’re taught about how to cycle, you are more likely to become a better driver, as you will be more aware of vulnerable road users.

    Is used to be much easier for people to get licenses in BC, but the graduated licensing program did make things a bit better, but we have a long way to go to truly create safer drivers.

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