Evaluation of Driver Testing and Licensing in Victoria: Report on preliminary investigations

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #24 - 1992

Authors: W. Macdonald, L. Bowland, T. Triggs

Full report in .pdf format [7.4MB]

Abstract:

This study is a preliminary investigation of the nature of on-road testing and its function within the Victorian driver licensing system. The investigation incorporates a literature review of recent developments in on-road licence testing, and documentation of some current licensing practices within Australia and overseas. Information from a number of jurisdictions within Australia and overseas indicates that in most places the on-road test procedure is of the traditional variety in use in Victoria. However, other aspects of overseas testing - the use of set test routes and the greater emphasis on training of Licence Testing Officers - would tend to produce better reliability than the standard Victorian on-road test. No immediate changes to existing Victorian test procedures were recommended, but issues identified as requiring resolution as a basis for future changes are specified.

Executive Summary

This report is a preliminary investigation of the nature of on-road testing and its function within the Victorian driver licensing system. The investigation incorporates a literature review of recent developments in on-road licence testing, and documentation of some current licensing practices within Australia and overseas.

It was evident from the literature review that the majority of recent work in the area has been concerned with the development of graduated licensing systems. Work specifically concerned with on-road testing has focussed primarily on test reliability. The need for greater reliability is universally accepted. The best means of achieving greater reliability is confirmed to be the use of set test routes, with observations of driver behaviour made at set locations according to clearly defined criteria. Such a test procedure needs to be supported by a carefully planned and implemented performance monitoring and training program for licence testing officers if high levels of reliability are to be achieved and maintained. The results of such research are gradually becoming evident in testing practices.

Information from a number of jurisdictions within Australia and overseas indicates that in most places the on-road test procedure is of the traditional variety in use in Victoria. However, other aspects of overseas testing - the use of set test routes, and the greater emphasis on training of LT0s, would tend to produce better reliability than in the standard Victorian on-road test. It is noteworthy that in Victoria the on-road components of the heavy vehicle licence test, the motorcycle licence test and the driving instructor licence test, all make use of set routes with set observations at set locations; the standard car driver test is the odd one out in this respect.

No immediate changes to existing Victorian test procedures were recommended. The issues identified as requiring resolution as a basis for future changes are the following:

(1) Who should be responsible for assessing whether a driver is sufficiently competent to be issued with a probationary licence?

The suggested options are:

(a) employees of the licensing authority whose main skill is in driver assessment (i.e. LTOs), or

(b) both LTOs and employees of private driver training companies whose skills include both driver training and driver assessment. (This second alternative is believed to be the option chosen by South Australia.)

(2) What form(s) of testing or assessment procedure are able to achieve satisfactory reliability?

(3) What forms of test, of test content (and of training curriculum content, if applicable) should be included within the licensing system (or training/licensing system) to maximise content validity from a road safety viewpoint?

The primary aims of the next stage of this investigation should be to provide answers to the above questions. In order to achieve these aims, the following recommendations are made.

  • The South Australian plans for standard driver licensing should be formally documented and evaluated within a broad framework, taking account of the multifactorial and interactive nature of the driver licensing system, and the implications of proposed changes for all significant interest groups. The extent to which the South Australian rationale is translatable to Victorian conditions should be determined.
  • A detailed post-hoc evaluation should be conducted of the processes involved in the previous attempt to implement the Car On-Road Test (CORT) in Victoria, to determine:
    • how, in the future, the implementation process for a new road test could be improved;
    • necessary conditions to achieve the future acceptance of a more reliable test.
  • If necessary, and if possible without unduly compromising reliability, the CORT should be modified to increase its acceptability to LT0s.
  • The content validity of the resultant test should be evaluated in terms of the criteria established by McKnight and Stewart (1990), further modifications made if necessary, and the reliability of the resulting test empirically confirmed.
  • The improved form of test should be introduced as the standard form of on-road test used by LTOs.
  • If driving instructors are to assess driver competence for the purpose of licensing, a form of assessment should be established which is comparable in its reliability and content validity to that used by LTOs.
  • The training requirements necessary for LTOs (and driving instructors if applicable) to attain and maintain adequate test reliability should be specified.
  • The contribution to the overall content validity of the licence testing system of the other tests which are currently used (knowledge, visual acuity and colour vision) or which it is planned to introduce (hazard perception) should be evaluated, and changes recommended if necessary.

Sponsor: VicRoads