Learner drivers should take first aid course, says Will Quince MP

Driving instructor in 1935 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The first driving test in the UK was in 1935, when this photo of a learner driver was taken

It was 81 years ago when Ronald Beere, of Kensington Hall Gardens, London, became the first person to pass a driving test in the UK. Since then, almost 50 million tests have been taken, and over that time a lot has changed.

For a start there's the cost: Mr Beere paid just 7/6d, around £50 in today's money, but would-be motorists have to find £85 these days.

The pass rate has come down from 63% in 1935 to 51% last year, and for the past 20 years there's been a separate written theory test.

Now there are moves to make things even tougher. Will Quince, the MP for Colchester, wants all driving licence applicants to have had first aid training before undertaking a practical driving test.

His Driving Licence (Mandatory First Aid Training) Bill has been unveiled in the House of Commons, and has the support of St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross.

"50% of deaths from road collisions occur within a few minutes of a crash, so there is often not time for an ambulance to arrive," Mr Quince told MPs.

"Knowledge of first aid can be absolutely critical. The immediate initiation of CPR, for example, can double or even quadruple survival from cardiac arrest."

Image caption Will Quince says a better knowledge of first aid could reduce the number of deaths on the roads

The Conservative MP said the sad reality in Britain was that knowledge of first aid was patchy.

A survey for St John Ambulance found that 59% of people questioned would not feel confident enough to save a life. At the scene of an accident, 24% of people said they would do nothing until an ambulance arrived.

First aid is briefly dealt with in the present theory test, but Mr Quince doesn't think it's enough. He's suggesting that every would-be driver sits a four-hour first aid course.

This is, of course, only a Private Members Bill and on its own is unlikely to become law. But ministers do take notice when MPs raise issues like this and, if they can be won over, the idea may end up being incorporated in future government legislation.

Mr Quince has started that debate.