Driving Instructor History
Learning to drive in 1910, when cars often resembled horseless carriages, was far harder work physically than today.
There was no power steering, making it essential that learners turned the wheel using the laborious “push-pull” method still advocated in some circles.
Starting the engine required a deft combination of mechanical understanding and brute force (starting handles were the order of the day) and brakes were rod-operated, heavy and ineffective compared to the servo-assisted systems we take for granted.
But what sorted the men from the boys was changing gear. Today’s synchromesh is so good it’s hard to fumble a change but then it required skill, timing and the ability to master double-declutching. For those who couldn’t, the best option was to come to a complete halt before first gear could be re-engaged.
Traffic at the dawn of the motoring age, however, was light, so learning how to negotiate the roads – which were still dominated by the horse and cart – was a cinch compared to today. There were only 53,196 cars on British roads compared to 28.5 million now.
Early driving lessons focused on basic car control, elementary hand signals – and common sense.
Learner driving history from 1946
1946 – Testing resumes in November, more than a year after the end of World War II.
1950 – The pass rate for the driving test is 50 per cent.
1956 – The test fee doubles from 10 shillings to £1 – that’s an increase from £10 to £21 in today’s money. Testing is again suspended, this time during the Suez Canal crisis in November. Learners are allowed to drive unaccompanied and examiners help to administer petrol rations.
1957 – Testing resumes in April after the Suez crisis. Provisional licences are no longer stamped with ‘passed test’ from July and the three-year driving licence is introduced in September.
1958 – Provisional licences are valid only for six months.
1959 – A new examiner training facility is opened in Stanmore, Middlesex. Until this point, examiners have been trained ‘on the job’.
1962 – From April, people who have held more than seven provisional licences are required to take a driving test. If they fail to, the licensing authority could refuse a further application.
1963 – A voluntary register of approved driving instructors (ADIs) is set up. To become an ADI, you have to pass stringent written and practical tests.
1968 – The test fee is increased again, going up this time to 1 pound, 15 shillings – equivalent to £25 today.
1969 – Several changes are made to the test, including the introduction of a ban on dual accelerator controls unless they have been disengaged. A separate category for automatic cars is also brought in.
1970 – All driving instructors now have to be officially registered. A total of 3,500 people are prosecuted for driving on a forged licence or wrongfully attempting to obtain a licence.