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Should Driver Knowledge Be Retested?

Retest Driver Knowledge - Copyright: Denis Raev

The Importance of Refreshing Your Driver Knowledge

John Simmons, 45, got his driver’s license almost 30 years ago. As he remembers it, he passed the written knowledge exam and the road test without any remarks. Since then, he has never been asked to retake any of the tests.

“My knowledge about road signs and rules of the road is probably just as good as the average American,” he says. “I have never been involved in any real accident, just a small fender-bender some years back. I never drive after I have been drinking, and I try to drive friendly and be courteous on the road.”

We wanted to know if his driver knowledge was as good as he said, so we exposed John to a real exam with 30 questions.

He missed the passing score for his state by one question.

Difficult Questions on the DMV test

“I mixed up one of the road sign questions,” he says after the test. “Even though I know the correct answer, I got uncertain. I must admit that I was really disturbed by this. It shouldn’t have happened. Same thing with some of the scenarios with accident avoidance. I simply didn’t remember the best course of action in one of the situations. But the most difficult questions were the ones that focused on state laws, road markings, and vehicle equipment.”

Before the test, John didn’t think that licensed drivers should be forced to retake the examination when they renewed their license. Rules of the road don’t change that often and you keep your knowledge simply by being on the road every day, he argued. It is just an extra cost and more hassle for everyone involved.

After taking the exam, he has changed his mind and admits that retesting may help drivers. Lack of knowledge can result in hesitant and unsafe driving behaviors. This may ultimately result in a crash.

No one is Immune from Bad Habits

“When you think about it, you probably see drivers like this every day. They stop for no reason and make last-minute maneuvers. No one is immune from bad habits, distractions, lack of knowledge or just plain ignorance of the laws.”

“It is a probably a good idea to have your driver knowledge refreshed now and then. It may not be a major factor for safety on the road, but I still think everyone would benefit from this.”

But failing such a test, shouldn’t result in a denial of a new license, John thinks. “Just give people a chance to refresh their knowledge, and then retake the test again. Standards may also be set a little bit lower compared to the first permit test. The exam should focus more on everyday driving situations and signs and signals.”

“The older you get, the more important it is to have your basic driver knowledge checked,” John continues. “Everything around us changes fast. Traffic today isn’t what it was 30 years ago, and certainly not what it was 50 years ago. People and driving behavior have changed. New features on your car have made driving safer, but at the same time more complex.”

Mandatory Retesting of Older Drivers

As drivers reach 70 years of age, they are involved in more accidents than teenagers. Drivers 85 years and older have the highest rate of fatal accidents per miles driven, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Some states now require seniors to pass a vision and written test before renewing their licenses. Illinois also requires seniors to retake the road test.

Older drives should stop driving when they have a medical condition that affects their ability to drive safely. They should also think twice about driving when their reactions become slower than they used to be and when they find traffic conditions increasingly stressful. Impaired hearing and poor vision may also be reasons for giving up driving. And if memory fades, knowledge of signs and rules may also become poor.

A retest every 15 Years.

“Passing the written test again should perhaps be requirement at every second renewal,” John says. This would mean a new test every 10 – 15 years. I think my age group would be open for that, if it imposed as a help and not a threat.”

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  1. If you have ever read the comic strip ‘Calvin and Hobbs’, you will know what I mean by Calvin ball. Your testing and standards are ridiculous. Unless, and until someone demonstrates a problem, leave them alone. Is my knowledge of the rules of the road as good as most? Yes. How can I be so certain? I’ve taken dozens and dozens of practice tests from 3 of 4 cites. I score in the 99+ percentile cumulatively. The ones I miss are for lack of careful reading. I own that.

    DMV offices don’t have the time or resources to re-examine everyone. I don’t need their assessment of my ability. I know as much as they do, and have been driving since their parents were children. I take these practice tests for the very reason you cite–continuing education.

    Instead of retesting renewal applicants (logistically impractical), might I suggest drivers having the ability to log in to an account with their DMV, and study manuals, and take practice tests there. The system keeps track of your activities and scores, and becomes part of your driving record. Even if the tests are done ‘open book’, so what? you are still learning. You keep reading the literature,and taking the practice tests, you can’t help but learn something new every day. Even if one out and out cheats, its hard to do that for 6 years and not be better educated. There are ways to prevent robots from doing the tests.

    The system is psycho. Someone sitting at a red light gets rear ended, and someone with a clipboard can say after the fact that he contributed to the accident, applying in some ad hoc way some arcane defensive driving shtick.

    if your re testing results in too many tax paying voters loosing their license, the political blow back will be something else. I can picture a voter referendum or class action suit aimed at trashing the whole system. I’d sign on in a heart beat.

    • Oh don’t be so matter-of-fact about this subject. Just because you re-take tests on a regular basis doesn’t mean everybody else does the same thing. I see more people who blatantly disregard traffic safety on my 15-minute commute than you can shake a stick at.

      Retesting individuals is the only way to assess today’s drivers and ensure traffic safety for all motorists. It’s unrealistic to think that individuals will logon to an ill-maintained system just to brush up on driver knowledge. If you force retesting of common driving skills every 10 to 12 years, it will likely sync up with the renewal dates for their driver licenses, thus making it simpler and more cost-effective.

      Traffic safety should be something that we shouldn’t have to worry about, and retesting drivers will allow for DMV employees to nip unsafe or belligerent driving in the bud.

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