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Practical driving test pass rates vary vastly across Greater Manchester – but which borough is best?

Learner drivers who took their practical test in Bolton last year were substantially more likely to pass than those in Rochdale, according to statistics from the DVSA.

The Bolton test site boasted a pass rate of 54.9% from April 2023 to March 2024 which is above the national average of 48.2% and far above Rochdale’s 38.2% figure.

Natalie Oldham, 20, went against the grain and passed her practical driving test on her first attempt in Rochdale, but she told Mancunian Matters how bad the area can be for driving. 

She said: “Rochdale is literally horrendous for inconsiderate drivers.

“Around the centre there are so many one-way streets which can be really confusing, then mixed with the inconsiderate drivers it can be a nightmare.

“In one of my driving lessons I had a near accident when someone was speeding the wrong way out of a one-way street.

“In the town centre at least a few times a month, if not a couple of times a week, there are incidents with vehicles, like cars or e-scooters, which speed through the pedestrian areas in the town centre.”

Jordan Hughes took his practical driving test in Bolton and passed on his first attempt.

He said: “I’m not too sure why there is a disparity but I would guess it’s because there’s a lot of good teachers in the area or maybe the roads are a bit better here.

“I’ve driven round some other bits of Manchester and I feel like Bolton is maybe one of the more straightforward and easier ones to drive on.”

He added: “I learnt to drive around Westhoughton because that’s where I’m based and it was honestly okay as the roads are pretty clear when it’s not peak times.”

The national pass rate made a big jump from 45.9% to 49.8% between 2019-20 and 2020-21, which was the year of the pandemic. 

During the pandemic, tests and lessons were halted due to government-imposed restrictions which caused a backlog for people taking their tests as well as high demand for instructors. 

Bolton is a popular test site and in from April 2022 to March 2023 it had the second longest wait time for practical driving tests across England and Wales.

Bolton had a wait time of 23.3 weeks, according to Driving Test Routes App, compared to Rochdale’s 10.6 weeks.

Compare this to April 2019-March 2020 and the wait time was drastically lower: Bolton at 8.4 weeks and Rochdale at 7.9. 

The results from DVSA also show men consistently have a higher pass rate on practical driving tests than women.

In 2019/2020 the female pass rate was 42.6% compared to the male pass rate of 49.6%.

But the gap has been closing over the last few years and in 2024/24 the female pass rate was 46.8% compared to the male pass rate of 49.4%.

Azhar Butt has been a driving instructor for 28 years and owns Learners Club Driving School based in Didsbury.

Butt thinks the difference in the pass rate between men and women is due to a few factors. 

He said: “The most important factor is that for a lot of male pupils as they are growing up they tend to start driving with family and friends, whereas females usually don’t have that liberty and access to friends’ vehicles.

“So a male of 13 or 14 might have experience of driving the car and know the basics before they start driving.

“Male pupils are a little bit more confident, and it often comes more naturally to them.

“And because they already have some background knowledge of driving, men tend to learn quickly.”

The DVSA said: “The driver testing and training regime tests candidates’ ability to drive safely and responsibly as well as making sure they know the theory behind safe driving.

“All candidates, regardless of location of the driving test centre, are assessed to the same standard.”

They added: “Higher pass rates would bring down waiting times for driving tests by reducing demand.

“The best way to be prepared for a driving test is to have the correct amount of professional tuition required for the individual.”

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