The History of the Road Safety Test

Approximately 1.6 million road safety tests take place every year. However, not a lot of people know the history of the road safety test.


The first driver licences were introduced in 1903 as part of the Motor Car Act. The licences were introduced as a way of identifying vehicles and the people who drove them. Every single vehicle was required to be registered. They were also required to display their registration marks. The annual cost of licensing a vehicle was just £1.

To buy a driving licence, you had to pay 25 pence at the Post Office. If you did not sign your new licence using your ordinary signature you could be fined up to £5.

- 1921

In 1921, Britain only had 1 million drivers on the road. This figure had trebled by 1939. However, when cars became much more affordable in the 1960s, more people began to buy cars.

- 1973

In in73, there were approximately 20 million drivers on the road. At the same time, a computer-based licensing system was established. This was to help the dvsa cope with the huge demand.

The Highway Code

In 1931, the Highway Code was introduced, and many hundreds of thousands are sold every year. When The Highway Code first came into fruition, there were just over 2.3 million cars on the road. However, more than 7,000 people died in car accidents every year.

Now there are more vehicles on the road but fewer than half of the fatalities as there were in 1931. This is thanks to the huge technological advances and better public awareness. In addition to this, introducing British Summer Time helped to reduce the number of fatalities.

- The Very First Edition

The very first edition of The Highway Code cost just 1 old penny. It was full of advertisements for BO, the RAC, the Autocar Magazine, and other well-known companies. Containing 18 pages of advice, which is 117 fewer than the 2007 edition, it also contained advice to those who drove horse-drawn vehicles.

Ever since the very first edition was printed, there have been regular revisions. These typically reflected technological advances and road safety and traffic management developments.

- Motorways

When motorways appeared in Great Britain in the 1950s, the fifth edition of The Highway Code contained information on how to drive on motorways. It also went into detail about how drivers should stretch their legs in service areas or parking spots. Finally, it also talked about how to exit slip roads.

- Photographs and Illustrations

In 1968, the latest edition included photographs and illustrations. This ensured that the rules were much clearer.

- Road Signs

The very first road signs were found in the second edition. They warned drivers about driving while they were tired or were under the influence of alcohol.

- Stopping

It wasn’t until the third edition when stopping distances made an appearance. Drivers were also given hints about cycling and driving.

- The Driving theory test

The dvsa driving theory test was introduced in 1990. The book was a lot taller and it included a section on the driving theory test itself

- The Green Cross Code

in 1978, the Green Cross Code was introduced for the first time. It was originally prompted by the rise in car crime.

How British Roads, Safety and Driving Tests Changed

- 1888

The first sale of a Benz took place.


Cabs began to operate in London using meters.


Fitness declarations and endorsement regulations were introduced. The Road Traffic Act (1930) ensures licences are needed for public service vehicles. Age restrictions were introduced along with driving test s for drivers with disabilities.


Drivers of public service vehicles were required to take a test. Motorcycle riders could purchase a copy of The Highway Code as it contained advice for them.


Lorry drivers were required to have a driving licence. Beacons were used for the first time to warn drivers of pedestrian crossings.


Voluntary testing was introduced in March of 1935. Compulsory testing was introduced in June of the same year. The pass rate was 63% and approximately 246,000 people applied.


Safety glass was used in windscreens and speedometers were also made compulsory. HGV drivers were offered provisional licences.


During World War 2, driving tests were suspended. Driving test examiners were made to supervise fuel rationing or sent to undertake traffic duties.


All HGV licences and tests were suspended.


All tests resumed in November of 1946.


Motorcyclists were placed in their own licence group. Wartime provisional driving licences were converted into full licences. No driving test was required.


The driving test’s pass rate was 50%.


Zebra crossings were used in Great Britain for the first time.


Learner were permitted to drive without being accompanied. Driving tests were suspended due to the Suez Crises. Driving test examiners were told to help deal with petrol rations.


Driving tests resumed. Provisional licences no longer needed to be stamped with ‘Passed test’. The 3 year driving licence was introduced.


Provisional licences were valid for 6 months.


An examiner training facility opened. The M1 was officially opened but it had no lighting, speed limit, crash barriers, or central reservation.


Learner motorcyclists could no longer ride a motorcycle that had more than 250cc capacity.


Learner motorcyclists could no longer ride a motorcycle that had more than 250cc capacity.


Those who had held more than 7 provisional driving licences had to take a driving test.


Motorcyclists were allowed to ride motorcycles with more than 250cc once they passed their test. Mopeds were placed within their own vehicle group.


Approved driving instructors were asked to sign up to a voluntary register.


The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre was set up this year. Applications for motorcycle licences and driving licences were revised.


More regulations surrounding testing and licensing of HGV drivers were brought in. Drink-driving laws were introduced. The limit was 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood.


More regulations surrounding testing and licensing of HGV drivers were brought in. Drink-driving laws were introduced. The limit was 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood.


Changes to the test in June of this year included a specific driving licence group for all automatic vehicles. Driving test candidates were required to show the examiner their driving licence for the first time.


Every driving instructor needed to register officially. A new HGV test ensured HGV-qualified examiners could only conduct tests.


The minimum age for motorcyclists rose to 17 years of age.


Motorcyclists and moped riders were required to wear helmets for the first time. Computerised driving licences were introduced.


Driving licences became valid until the driver was 70 years old


Mopeds were restricted to travelling at 30 miles per hour.


Learner machines were reduced to 125cc. Provisional motorcycling licences were limited to 2 years. Learner motorcyclists were required to take a 2 part test for the first time.


Drivers could now hold a provisional licence up to the age of 70.


Driving tests were now conducted under the Road Traffic Act (1988).


An examiner was required to follow someone taking a motorcycle test while maintaining radio contact.


AThe DVSA was created. Provisional motorcycle licence holders could no longer carry passengers. Compulsory basic training was introduced.


The Pass Plus scheme was introduced this year, enabling new drivers to gain more experience.


The Theory test was introduced, replacing questions about The Highway Code.


Motorcyclists who are under 21 years of age are restricted to 125cc motorcycles. Photographic ID is required for the practical and theory tests. Waiting times between tests were introduced for the first time.


Cars used in a driving test much have a seat belt on the front passenger seat, a rear-view mirror, and a head restraint. Photocard licences were introduced. Candidates who committed 16 or more faults were automatically failed.


Those who are applying for a full car licence need to pass CBT before they can ride a moped. People can now book a theory test online.


Hazard perception was introduced to tests.


‘Show me, tell me’ was introduced during tests this year. People can now book their practical test online.


A 2-part motorcycle test was introduced this year.


Driving test candidates are now encouraged to take their driving instructor with them during their test.


Rules were changed regarding the age of motorcyclists and the type of motorcycles they can ride.


The DSA and Vehicle and Operator Services agency merged to create the DVSA.


Computer generated imagery was used for the first time in theory tests.


Directions from a Sat Nav were allowed during tests for the first time.


Learner drivers can now drive on the motorway during a driving lesson.