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Are Driving Examiners Biased

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Are Driving Examiners Biased

A recent article by the Guardian has released figures showing how women and people of colour are less likely to pass their driving test, in comparison to white males. The Guardian issued a Freedom of Information request which showed that black women had the lowest pass rate of all groups (32%). This in comparison to white males who had the highest pass rate of 56%. The data released also shows that throughout the years of 2008 to 2017, women had a pass rate of 43%, whereas males had a rate of 50%.

Depressing Driving Test Figures

These figures, say the least, is depressing.  However, it’s important to remember that there may be several factors at play. Unconscious bias is often cited as the main reason for this massive gap in pass rates. It’s one of the explanations for why even though bias such as this is strictly against UK law, it still exists in several industries today. There are overwhelming wide amounts of evidence to suggest that unconscious bias seeps in many of our daily decisions, which can affect recruitment, outcomes of criminal justice, and now, the driving test.

DVSA’s Chief Driving Examiner

It’s important to exercise caution when analysing this data, but there does seem to be an apparent bias in favour of white men. Who is more often than not, the examiners. Figures from the DVSA show that only 21% of examiners in the UK are female. Yet the DVSA’s chief driving examiner, Mark Winn, stated that the agency was dedicated to equality, and only focus on the safety of the driver. He’s stated that all candidates are assessed to the same performance standards and the outcome of the test is only dependent on what occurs during it. The DVSA also routinely check up on examiners performance through monitoring live tests to ensure that examiners conduct driving tests in accordance with DVSA standards.

Interestingly, female drivers are less likely to be involved in accidents after passing. Data for 2016 showed that they only accounted for a third of all accidents. This behavior after passing suggests that women on average are safer and better drivers, therefore the discrepancies in pass rates require further explanation. Unfortunately, the driving test does rely on a degree of interpretation and examiners discretion, which seems to disadvantage women or those from ethnic minorities.

IAM Roadsmart

Neil Greig, the policy and research director of the charity IAM RoadSmart, suggested the gap in pass rates could be due to boys often having more practice and sometimes from an earlier age. Furthermore, they can often be under slightly more social pressure to pass. Yet there is no data to suggest that someone’s ethnicity affects their driving skills, therefore the differences in ethnicity pass rates cannot be explained this way.

This pattern of women and those from ethnic minorities were less likely to pass was repeated across 347 out of 350 UK driving test centres in the years 2016-17. With the largest difference being seen in Basingstoke, where 49% of white applicants passes, in comparison to 27% of black, Asian and ethnic minorities.  

Another possible factor for the differences in pass rates in ethnicities is that some older Asian women can often struggle with confidence issues and language barriers. This can often hinder their abilities during the driving test.

International Drivers

In addition to this, another potential reason for the discrepancies in the pass rates is the influx of international drivers. Many people from ethnic minorities, black and Asian groups, can often have a licence in another country. Yet when they arrive in Britain, they assume their pre-existing knowledge of driving applies, and go straight for the driving test, without taking lessons. Resulting in a lower pass rate, as the UK driving test has a large emphasis on knowing the rules of the road, and safety, which pre-existing knowledge cannot assist with.

Others in the industry have the feeling that there is still a feeling of women being not as good drivers as males. Clients can sometimes request lessons from a male instructor especially, suggesting there’s still some scepticism about taking lessons from a woman.

In conclusion, the statistics released directly by the DVSA show a clear difference in pass rates for different groups of society. A large factor of this is likely to be due to unconscious bias by examiners, yet it’s possible that there are many other factors at play beyond those discussed in this blog. Yet the DVSA cannot sit ideally whilst those from minority groups are disadvantaged, extra training for examiners on countering unconscious bias could be beneficial in rectifying this problem, as would more publicity on these issues.

Are Driving Examiners Biased

A recent article by the Guardian has released figures showing how women and people of color are less likely to pass their driving test, in comparison to white males. The Guardian issued a Freedom of Information request which showed that black women had the lowest pass rate of all groups (32%). This in comparison to white males who had the highest pass rate of 56%. The data released also shows that throughout the years of 2008 to 2017, women had a pass rate of 43%, whereas males had a rate of 50%.

Depressing Driving Test Figures

These figures, say the least, is depressing.  However, it’s important to remember that there may be several factors at play. Unconscious bias is often cited as the main reason for this massive gap in pass rates. It’s one of the explanations for why even though bias such as this is strictly against UK law, it still exists in several industries today. There are overwhelming wide amounts of evidence to suggest that unconscious bias seeps in many of our daily decisions, which can affect recruitment, outcomes of criminal justice, and now, the driving test.

DVSA’s Chief Driving Examiner

It’s important to exercise caution when analysing this data, but there does seem to be an apparent bias in favour of white men. Who is more often than not, the examiners. Figures from the DVSA show that only 21% of examiners in the UK are female. Yet the DVSA’s chief driving examiner, Mark Winn, stated that the agency was dedicated to equality, and only focus on the safety of the driver. He’s stated that all candidates are assessed to the same performance standards and the outcome of the test is only dependent on what occurs during it. The DVSA also routinely check up on examiners performance through monitoring live tests to ensure that examiners conduct driving tests in accordance with DVSA standards.

Interestingly, female drivers are less likely to be involved in accidents after passing. Data for 2016 showed that they only accounted for a third of all accidents. This behaviour after passing suggests that women on average are safer and better drivers, therefore the discrepancies in pass rates require further explanation. Unfortunately, the driving test does rely on a degree of interpretation and examiners discretion, which seems to disadvantage women or those from ethnic minorities.

IAM Roadsmart

Neil Greig, the policy and research director of the charity IAM RoadSmart, suggested the gap in pass rates could be due to boys often having more practice and sometimes from an earlier age. Furthermore, they can often be under slightly more social pressure to pass. Yet there is no data to suggest that someone’s ethnicity affects their driving skills, therefore the differences in ethnicity pass rates cannot be explained this way.

This pattern of women and those from ethnic minorities were less likely to pass was repeated across 347 out of 350 UK driving test centres in the years 2016-17. With the largest difference being seen in Basingstoke, where 49% of white applicants passes, in comparison to 27% of black, Asian and ethnic minorities.  

Another possible factor for the differences in pass rates in ethnicities is that some older Asian women can often struggle with confidence issues and language barriers. This can often hinder their abilities during the driving test.

International Drivers

In addition to this, another potential reason for the discrepancies in the pass rates is the influx of international drivers. Many people from ethnic minorities, black and Asian groups, can often have a licence in another country. Yet when they arrive in Britain, they assume their pre-existing knowledge of driving applies, and go straight for the driving test, without taking lessons. Resulting in a lower pass rate, as the UK driving test has a large emphasis on knowing the rules of the road, and safety, which pre-existing knowledge cannot assist with.

Others in the industry have the feeling that there is still a feeling of women being not as good drivers as males. Clients can sometimes request lessons from a male instructor especially, suggesting there’s still some scepticism about taking lessons from a woman.

In conclusion, the statistics released directly by the DVSA show a clear difference in pass rates for different groups of society. A large factor of this is likely to be due to unconscious bias by examiners, yet it’s possible that there are many other factors at play beyond those discussed in this blog. Yet the DVSA cannot sit ideally whilst those from minority groups are disadvantaged, extra training for examiners on countering unconscious bias could be beneficial in rectifying this problem, as would more publicity on these issues.