Learner drivers are least likely to pass their driving test at Altnagelvin, Co. Londonderry.
The Derry test centre had a pass rate of 42.58% in 2019 – the lowest in all of Northern Ireland, according to a Freedom of Information request to the Driver & Vehicle Agency.
This figure has dropped from a pass rate of 45.29% at the centre in 2018.
The second lowest pass rate in the country was at the Balmoral centre in Belfast where 47.63% of candidates passed their tests.
Catherine Mullan, 31, did her tests at Altnagelvin, not passing until her seventh attempt.
Joking about doing her test in the city, she said, “It’s probably because people never use indicators and have no patience!
“My instructor was actually shocked that I failed so many times. He thought I was definitely ready.”
A 21-year-old man from Londonderry, who wished to remain anonymous, also took his driving test in Derry. It took him four attempts before he passed.
“I think part of it is the fact Derry is a city, it will be bigger, and often that means more complex road layouts and in particular large, unwieldy roundabouts which can be difficult”, he said.
Speaking to Ian Kettyle, a driving instructor based in the North West, he also attributes the low pass rate to the location of the test centre, and said, “For this reason, many instructors who live between Coleraine and Derry/Londonderry will only take their pupils for tests in Coleraine.”
Coleraine has a much higher pass rate than Altnagelvin with 59.31% of tests being passes.
The highest percentage of successful tests, however, are in Downpatrick with a pass rate of 71.75%.
John Williams, a driving instructor from the area is not surprised by this statistic.
“On Downpatrick test routes, there is only one real roundabout beside the Down Hospital with several mini roundabouts scattered around the town. Also, a pupil will not be asked to drive on a dual carriageway in Downpatrick”, he said.
Elle McMahon, 18, passed on her first attempt in Downpatrick. She said, “I think it is easier as there are not as many lanes or one-way systems.
“People do purposefully take their test there as I know a lot of people who live in Belfast who have come to Downpatrick for their test.
John has encountered this in the past but said, “While we have a better pass rate, it still takes time to learn the roads around the town and, plus, get your driving up to the required standard.”
In response to the differing pass rates, the Driver and Vehicle Agency say that the differences “reflect the differential driving ability and experience of candidates presenting for testing at each Test Centre while other relevant factors will be specific to the test centre such as local driving conditions.”
The recent figures from the FOI also reveal that men are more likely to pass driving tests than women with men having a pass rate of 59%, as opposed to 51% for women.
Addressing this gender gap, instructor Ian Kettyle said, “Boys generally are a little more confident. Sometimes this helps them to make a little more progress.”
John Williams also mentioned that, “Women tend to start further back than men. Most men tend to have some understanding of cars and how they work.”
However, he stressed the point of confidence may not necessarily be true, “With the fellas, it’s a macho thing and they don’t like to let on that they haven’t a clue and they’re terrified.”
For more information on the Driving Test Pass Rates in your area, please follow this link.