Driving test candidates face examiner lottery
LEARNER drivers are more likely to fail if they are assigned certain testers because of "considerable variations" in the driving test system.
The state spending watchdog, Comptroller and Auditor General John Buckley, has found these "considerable variations" at an individual level -- with some driving testers consistently failing more candidates than other testers operating from the same centre.
In the official driving test centre in Wexford, there are testers who fail 78pc of the learner drivers even though the average failure rate is 55pc. In Clonmel, Co Tipperary, some testers fail 76pc of candidates even though the average failure rate at the centre is 51pc. And in Monaghan, some testers fail 61pc of candidates, compared to the average failure rate of 41pc in the centre. The comptroller's report also highlighted the fact that there are centres where certain examiners are passing far more learner drivers than their colleagues.
In Kilrush, Co Clare, some instructors pass 78pc of candidates (compared to the testing centre's average of 52pc) and in Woodview, Co Limerick, some testers have a pass rate of 73pc compared to the average of 51pc in the centre.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) said newly recruited testers had to complete an initial six-week training programme -- and that only those who passed their test were hired.
The RSA hired SGS Ireland, the private company behind the National Car Test, to provide more testers and to cut down waiting lists for tests. It carried out 27pc of all driving tests in 2007 and 57pc of all driving tests in 2008.
But the report found that the national average pass rate was far higher among the SGS Ireland testers at 62pc compared to just 49pc for testers employed by the RSA. SGS Ireland was paid €24m up to the end of December 2008 for more than 300,000 driving tests.
The contract was terminated in April last year when the backlog of applications was cleared.
The report acknowledged the RSA was now very close to reducing waiting times for driving tests (which were once up to 48 weeks) to its target of 10 weeks. But it found that the actual fee charged for the driving test had, until recently, fallen far short of the cost of providing it.
The driving test fee remained unchanged at €38 per test since 1992 until it was increased to €75 in April last year. Yet the actual cost of providing the test is estimated at €88, meaning that the state has had to provide "significant Exchequer funding" to make up the difference.