Experienced drivers can’t pass learner’s test

Alberta Transportation will face a series of recommendations to improve driver safety after a University of Calgary study showed close to 90 per cent of experienced drivers could not pass the Class 7 learner’s test.

Online refresher courses, educational videos and online games are among the changes being suggested after the Schulich School of Engineering survey found only 11.4 per cent of drivers were able to pass the test.

Even after removing questions related to graduated driver licensing, parking and demerit points — questions not directly related to driving and road safety — the pass rate was still low: between 22.9 per cent and 38.6 per cent.

“It’s shocking” said survey analyst Sabreena Anowar, a graduate engineering student who specializes in road safety. “Obviously, not many drivers in Alberta have an acceptable level of knowledge when it comes to the rules of the road.”

The survey, which tested 2,394 Albertans, was commissioned by the Alberta Motor Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety. It asked about everything from merging to right-of-way to the meanings of road markings and signs, safe following distances and what to do if vehicles skid.

Drivers had the most trouble with questions around school zones, and signage for things such as speed bumps or bicycle crossings.

The majority of the participants, 82.3 per cent, reported having more than 10 years of experience.

Anowar admitted the results don’t prove that just because you failed the test you’re a bad driver. But she did add that drivers who scored well on the test, tended to be involved in less risky driving behaviour, fewer collisions and fewer traffic violations.

Scott Wilson, senior policy analyst with the AMA, said the data proves knowledge upgrades are necessary.

“It’s clear from this research that most Alberta drivers could benefit from a regular review of the rules of the road to refresh their memories and knowledge.”

But while AMA offers myriad driver safety courses, including the popular defensive driving classes, no one is forced to upgrade skills or knowledge unless they’ve lost their licence for violations.

Wilson says the best way to ensure all drivers update their knowledge would be to tie an online refresher course to registration or licence renewal.

That way they don’t have to worry about passing or failing a test, Wilson said, but just having completed the course ensures some improvement in knowledge.

Anowar adds that educational videos and online games should be made more readily available.

“Calgary is full of bad drivers. They’re way too aggressive and impatient. Everybody’s always in such a big hurry,” said Ali Smith, a first-year university student. She remembers struggling with the learner’s test herself, but adds that ensuring drivers update their knowledge every few years can’t be a bad thing.

Heather Kaszuba, spokeswoman for Alberta Transportation, says there is no evidence to suggest mandatory retesting for drivers improves safety on the road. But she added the province is in favour of examining options to improve driver education.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun