Passing a driving test in the West Midlands, or in a major Northern city, is significantly harder than any other UK locations, according to analysis of driving test results from the DVSA by car finance provider Moneybarn.

The average for West Midlands practical driving test pass rate was just 40 percent, sitting well below the national average of 48 percent from the 1.3 million tests conducted last year. Pass rates for the six test centres in Birmingham were even lower than the region’s average, coming in at just 39%.

Those in Greater London, Greater Manchester and Bedfordshire also struggled, with average pass rates of just 41 and 44 percent.

The test centre in Belvedere had the lowest pass rate in the UK, at just 28 percent, and Manchester-based centres in Cheetham Hill, Salford, Rochdale and the appropriately-named Failsworth conducted more than 20,000 practical tests last year with an average pass rate of only 36 percent between them.

In contrast, thousands of UK residents appear to benefit from doing their tests at more rural centres.

In England, Cumbria and Northumberland had two of the highest national averages in terms of pass rates just shy of 60 percent. Areas in Scotland such as the Orkneys, Shetlands and Scottish borders all showed a pass rate of a combined 64 percent.

The results in more rural areas correspond with a British trend since 2007/08 of an improvement in practical test results, which has seen the annual figures rise from 44 percent to 48 percent last year.

The rise has been partly attributed to the DVSA having not caught up with semi-autonomous technology available in many learner cars, and during a test. Blind spot monitoring, speed limit detection and collision warning systems are all becoming standard on modern cars and have skewed practical tests results in the UK in recent years.

Shamus Hodgson, MD of Moneybarn, commented: “Our analysis has revealed some interesting and surprising results, with low pass rates for areas like Bedfordshire and the West Midlands not necessarily being what you’d typically expect.

“Whilst, the average national pass rate has increased by four percent, built up areas are still showing themselves to be particularly difficult for learners, whether it’s because of extra traffic, complex road signage, or added pressure in a busier environment. It will be intriguing to see if this remains the case, once amendments are made to the practical test later this year.”

The practical test in the UK is set for a shake up later this year with four major changes. These include:

  • Increasing the test’s independent driving section from 10 to 20 minutes
  • Asking you to follow a sat nav’s directions during the ‘independent driving’ section
  • Replacing the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road’ with manoeuvres such as driving into and reversing out of a parking bay to demonstrate more likely day-to-day driving scenarios
  • Allowing learners on to motorways