Mr RE Beere of Kensington Hall Gardens, London W14, secured a footnote in history when, on 16 March 1935, he became the first person in Britain to pass the driving test.
Passing the test wasn’t compulsory until June 1935, but from March a series of trial tests were held, and the intrepid, history-making Mr Beere was the first to receive his pass certificate, permitting him to then acquire a full driving licence.
The driving test was an attempt to formalise the training of new drivers and trim the country’s quite astonishing accident rate. Government figures show that 7343 people were killed on Britain’s roads in 1935, despite there being just 2.4 million vehicles in use. The Highway Code, issued in 1930, was an early attempt to introduce car owners to the fundamentals of sharing the road with other users.
Reinforcing that with a compulsory assessment for new licence applicants occurred in tandem with the introduction of a new 30mph limit for urban areas, as well as pedestrian crossings.
Autocar carried out a thorough ‘test’ of the driving test, assessed by Captain RSD Stuart, who had been appointed as chief of Britain’s driving examiners. In the early days, there were no test centres, so applicants had to meet an assessor at a pre-arranged place. Autocar’s man met Captain Stuart “in a narrow cul-de-sac off the Camberwell Road in Peckham”.