Driving test gender gap widens in Preston
New figures reveal worrying trend among learners in the city
The gap between male and female driving test pass rates has widened in Preston during the coronavirus pandemic, figures suggest, despite the gender gap shrinking to a record low nationally.
The RAC said it is encouraging to see the gender gap narrowing nationally, but warned "time will tell" if the trend continues as driving test numbers recover following Covid-related disruption.
Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency data shows that of 766 tests taken by male drivers at Preston Test Centre between April and June, 498 were successful – a pass rate of 65 per cent.
Meanwhile, 54 per cent of 803 tests taken by women were passed over this period, giving a gap of 11 percentage points.
Figures for this period in 2020 were unavailable for Preston, when tests were cancelled due to lockdown restrictions.
Women had a success rate of 51 per cent during the same period in 2019 – compared to 58 per cent for men, meaning there was a gap of seven percentage points between the genders.
In the first quarter of 2018-19, the gap was six percentage points.
Across Great Britain, 49.2 per cent of tests taken by women between April and June were passed – a higher proportion than during any similar period on record, and up from 47.1 per cent in 2020-21 as a whole.
Though the male success rate also rose, the gap between the two genders (4.7 percentage points) is now the closest it has ever been – previously peaking at 7.3 in 2018.
RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “The impact of the pandemic means we’re in unusual times when it comes to driving tests, not least because there’s an enormous backlog of drivers waiting to take tests and get out on the road.
"While it’s encouraging that the gender driving test pass ‘gap’ appears to be closing, only time will tell whether this is a trend that continues as the number of people taking tests starts to return to normal.”
Of the five months of available figures for Preston between July and December 2020, women had a pass rate of 57 per cent, while men passed 63 per cent of tests.
The AA said the difference in pass rates between men and women is a long-term trend, but added it is good to see the gap closing slightly.
Edmund King, president of the AA, added: “The pandemic has had an impact on the overall pass rate.
"People who took their test in April to June this year would have been likely to have had their lessons disrupted by the lockdown restrictions of 2020 so may well have taken lessons over a longer period of time than they would have done, had there been no restrictions.
"Many of them would have been in the backlog of people who booked a test, knowing if they failed it may be a long wait before they could re-take it. This could all have had an impact on the small improvement in the pass rate.”
A DVSA spokesman said practical and theory tests are designed to measure a candidate's ability to drive safely and responsibly as well as making sure they know the theory behind safe driving.
He added: "All candidates are assessed to the same standard and the result of their test is entirely dependent on their performance on the day.”