What it's like being assaulted and threatened when you're a driving examiner

You might have seen that we recently launched a campaign taking a zero-tolerance approach to abuse towards our staff.

And, one of the most common types of abuse our examiners face is from candidates taking their driving test.

I'm a driving examiner, and I experienced a verbal assault and threatening behaviour at work. I'm sharing my story, anonymously, to help you understand what it's like to be on the receiving end.

It started as a normal day

During a normal working week, and what seemed like an average day, as usual I took a candidate out on a driving test.

We began the independent driving section of a test, which involved following signs. The candidate was required to turn right, third exit.

He approached the roundabout in the left lane, and as we emerged he said to me "I don’t know where the f**k I’m going".

I told him that we were turning right, third exit, repeating the sign that he was following, but told him to do what he thought best. He did turn right, from the left lane.

We came up to the next roundabout, which was also a large roundabout, with large directional signs. Once again he positioned on the left, for a right turn.

As we emerged on to the roundabout he said "I don’t know where the f***k I’m going you f*****g b***h, you’re supposed to give me directions."

I repeated to him that we were turning right, third exit, and to follow the signs. At this point, he accelerated harshly to join a dual carriageway.

"I'll show you who's the clever one"

He began erratically steering from the left to the right saying, "You think you’re so f*****g clever, I’ll show you who’s the clever one."

He steered across the solid hatching, directly into the first lane of a busy 3-lane dual carriageway. It caused the car in that lane to swerve sharply to the right to avoid us.

He then resumed the erratic steering, swerving across all 3 lanes of dual carriageway, screaming at me "Not so f*****g clever now, are you?".

You better start running... I'm going to mow you down.

As our vehicle was dual controlled I waited until we were in lane one, and used the dual brake and pulled the car over.

I got out of the car, and he screamed at me, "You better start running then b***h, because I’m going to mow you down".

I told him that if he moved the car that I'd phone the police.

Luckily, near where we had stopped there was a bridge which had a crash barrier in front of it. I stood behind that and rang my test centre manager, who came out and got me.

How it affected me

My manager took my next test out for me, to give me some time and I filled in an incident report. The candidate also received a letter to tell him that his behaviour had been unacceptable.

I later learned that he had written to complain that I had scared him by leaving him on the dual carriageway. I remained entirely professional, staying calm throughout the test, and I didn’t even raise my voice during the incident.

I’d been an examiner for about 8 years at that time, but this was the first time that anything like this had ever happened to me, and it really shook me up. For 2 weeks after I felt really uncomfortable when we approached dual carriageways, and for a good 6 months I didn't feel the same about the job.

Don’t take it out on our staff

Following an increase in incidents like this, we’re now working with the police and other organisations to make sure the full extent of the law is used when our staff are assaulted or abused at work.

This now means that abusive candidates can be banned from test centres, forced to have an extra member of staff in the car on tests or charges brought against them for criminal prosecution.

We hope by sharing this story with you, you'll understand how behaviour like this can affect our staff.

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  1. Comment by Driving Instructor ADI car posted on

    I am sorry to hear of your account with the candidate, but this is the way of the world now days. Don't forget we have to teach these people ! You just had the candidate for 40 minutes, we have then for 40 hours ! and they often cancel lessons and don't pay on time or at all. Ive got 100's of stories like yours. I wish they could be banned from lessons too.

    • Replies to Driving Instructor ADI car>

      Comment by Martin Evans posted on

      What a strange's not my experience at all and it's far from common as the examiner explained.

      PS. you can decline don't have to continue with any's in your hands.

      • Replies to Martin Evans>

        Comment by Lin posted on

        I agree, unacceptable behaviour, don't put up with it, eventually they may well get the message.

    • Replies to Driving Instructor ADI car>

      Comment by Steve holland posted on

      That's terrible. Nobody should be spoken to or treated like that.
      My blame goes squarely on the instructors shoulders. (I am presuming though, he'd had lessons) the instructor surely must have done a mock with him using the standard examiners instructions, if not, then it's certainly partly his/her fault and the dvsa should be bringing them in for questioning too.

  2. Comment by Peter Glenn. ADI posted on

    Make it clear that you will abandon the test if such behaviour occurs inside the the car or out, and a Criminal Charge of Harassment ( Please look up the Legal definition of Harassment in the Act) will place on the local Police Station, they will go to their address and give them a first and final warning. If the same pupil abuses an examiner again he will be arrested and charged.

    • Replies to Peter Glenn. ADI>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Peter,

      Following incidents like this, we'll be:
      • referring all threat, physical assault and ‘driving away’ incidents to the police
      • making abusive learner drivers take their next test elsewhere
      • trialling body-worn cameras for front line staff
      • referring abuse from driving instructors to the Registrar


  3. Comment by Paul Gill posted on

    So make it law that abuse to an examiner is a five year exclusion from a diving test. And nine points. Plus an extended test upon completion of the ban.

    • Replies to Paul Gill>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Paul,

      Following incidents like this, we'll be:
      • referring all threat, physical assault and ‘driving away’ incidents to the police
      • making abusive learner drivers take their next test elsewhere
      • trialling body-worn cameras for front line staff
      • referring abuse from driving instructors to the Registrar


    • Replies to Paul Gill>

      Comment by Mike posted on

      I agree totally with you Paul,also we don`t need people like this on our roads, sadly its seems to be a sign of the times but that doesn't make it right for anyone to treat anyone doing their job like that. I`m pleased that DVSA is having a zero tolerance to any type of abusive behaviour towards their staff maybe it might be worth having body cameras on during the test as proof of any type of abuse ? I just hope that the full arm of the law gets behind them plus the courts.

  4. Comment by Robert Gwyther - Chartered Health and Safety Practitioner posted on

    This is astounding and wholly unacceptable. The physical injuries might have been horrific, and the psychological effects should not be underestimated. For some people they would be career-limiting. Why did you not seek a prosecution? To call anyone a "b***h indicates a deeply scarred personality and this driver may have previous convictions or warnings. I hope you are okay now. Watch out for signs of trauma - they commonly re-emerge in the 2 or 3 months after an incident.

    • Replies to Robert Gwyther - Chartered Health and Safety Practitioner>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Robert,

      Thank you for your comment. Although we didn't seek a prosecution at the time, we'll now be:
      • referring all threat, physical assault and ‘driving away’ incidents to the police
      • making abusive learner drivers take their next test elsewhere
      • trialling body-worn cameras for front line staff
      • referring abuse from driving instructors to the Registrar


  5. Comment by Brian posted on

    We had a laugh at the end of my test, A dog jumped on my bonnet on the 3 point turn. I went slowly in to the kerb and got a rope out of my boot and took the dog in to the nearby police station.
    The examiner directed me back to the test centre and I thought I had failed.
    The examiner then laughed and said he did not know if there was a procedure for dealing with a dog on your bonnet on a 3 point turn.
    He asked me a couple of questions and issued my pass certificate.
    I have never had a dog on my bonnet since.
    I don't think he wanted to take the risk of getting me back for another test.
    This was 1971.

  6. Comment by Kamel Elkomaty posted on

    Bad behaviour shouldn't be accepted.
    The candidate's instructor equally should be in question.
    The instructor should have alerted the examiner of his learner's attitude, unless he didn't have an instructor,
    Also at the beginning of the test all candidates should sign an undertaking regarding misbehaving and in such event, they shouldn't be allowed or entitle to undergo and carry on with their test.
    It has become apparent that this kind of behaviour shouldn't and will not be tolerated.

    • Replies to Kamel Elkomaty>

      Comment by Lewis Vernon (ADI) posted on

      It's hardly either the instructor's fault or responsibility. Who knows what caused this candidate to behave so badly. Most Instructors would have dumped a customer who showed this kind of attitude, and would never have let him get as far as a test centre front door.

    • Replies to Kamel Elkomaty>

      Comment by Paul Fuller posted on

      I think the point he made when he used the Dual Controls to stop the car - indicates this was a driving school car and quite rightly the instructor should be called in to account for this one.

    • Replies to Kamel Elkomaty>

      Comment by Mark posted on

      I once had a pupil 'go for' an examiner during the feedback at the end of the test. He had never displayed any kind of attitude problem prior to that so I couldn't have warned the examiner in advance. Fortunately I am big enough to have been able to drag him from the car and 'remove' him from the test centre. The instructor can't necessarily be held to blame.

  7. Comment by Martin Tillman posted on

    Obviously disgraceful behaviour. Was the ADI asked about this candidate afterwards?
    And I was under the impression that 'abusive candidates can be banned from test centres, forced to have an extra member of staff in the car on tests or charges brought against them for criminal prosecution' had been in place for years. Am I wrong about that?

    • Replies to Martin Tillman>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Martin,

      Thank you for your comment. You're correct, from now we'll be:
      • referring all threat, physical assault and ‘driving away’ incidents to the police
      • making abusive learner drivers take their next test elsewhere
      • trialling body-worn cameras for front line staff
      • referring abuse from driving instructors to the Registrar


      • Replies to Olivia (DVSA)>

        Comment by Tony Curran posted on

        Very sad no one should expect that sort of abuse in the workplace or anywhere.

  8. Comment by Phill Barnes posted on

    I sincerely hope this particular candidate was never allowed to have a driving licence. Given the behavior and attitude at a time when one would reasonably expect best of both - Can you imagine what they would be like on the road and free to do what they pleased - HOW LONG would it be before they killed someone? A driving licence should be a privilege not a right. I would fully support any "extreme measures" to keep this sort of driver off the road permanently; with "extreme penalties" if they breach the law. There are enough ways to die on our roads now. We definitely do not need lunatics like this one.

  9. Comment by James Woods posted on

    I am so sorry your Examiner suffered this behaviour. If I thought one of my Clients would exhibit this behaviour they would not get anywhere near a Test Centre with me. If it happened on Test, then i would dump them. If they can't control themselves they can't act responsibly behind the wheel. I pride myself on fostering a good working relationship
    with Driving Examiners - after all we are all rooting for road safety! James, ADI, Royston.

  10. Comment by Ron Collins posted on

    Its shocking that this happens. The sad thing is, people like this will eventually get a license and they will kill someone or cause an accident. If they are like that a driving test with an examiner in the car, what the heck are they going do when someone cuts them up or upsets them. Sorry this happened to you bud and thank you for sharing. Fortunately, this has not happened to me, yet, but I've only been doing this for just over a year.

  11. Comment by Dave Harris posted on

    Such behaviour should result, initially, in the candidate not being allowed to take another test anywhere for a period of at least 3 months.

    Unless such behaviour is met with tough responses, it will not be responded to in a way that prevents it in future by making examples of such individuals.

  12. Comment by Les Kelly posted on

    Why don't the authorities who oversee all tests just bite the blooming bullet and make it compulsory for all examiners to cary some form of recording equipment during the test. This will solve the issue of ---- dispute and intimidation in an instant.

    • Replies to Les Kelly>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Les,

      We'll be trialling body-worn cameras for driving examiners over the next few months, to help prevent incidents like this occurring.


  13. Comment by Jane Gibson posted on

    How awful! I would never have thought of a driving examiner being thus treated. You would think people would be on their best behaviour.
    Judging by the notices about ' our staff must not be abused' that I now see wherever I go - my doctor's surgery for example - the driving examiner is far from alone. Also I have read reports of working ambulance drivers being assaulted. It's getting that all those on the front line everywhere have these maniacal types to deal with in the course of their work. I don't think I could cope. I hope this blog instructor has not been too traumatised by the experience and hope that the talks with police lead to a solution.

  14. Comment by Oliver Harding posted on

    Thank you for sharing,Well done for keeping calm, it must have been quite worried? To say the least

  15. Comment by Graham posted on

    As the candidate was clearly driving in a deliberately dangerous manor, then surely it would be easier to put a note on the system stopping them from booking another test.
    It would send a clear message that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.
    Failing that with the police now moving towards personal cameras, to prove public behaviour which can then acted upon this would be an alternative so that charges could be brought properly.

  16. Comment by Peter Ranger posted on

    I totally agree with what was said by The examiner and the candidate should be banned from driving until successfully passing an anger management program
    I am an ADI and believe ther should be a website for us to register bad attitude of pupils on some pupils know best and no matter how much you advise them they ignore you
    I have spoken to one pupils parents about attitude towards other drivers and got told to F off
    No way to warn other ADIs of problem

  17. Comment by Sandra Rowland posted on

    I am so very sorry to hear of your experience. It is totally unacceptable. I totally agree with the action that is being taken. No one should have to feel that this is what they may face at any time and certainly not when carrying out your job. Perhaps some sort of video and audio capture device could also be used in vehicles during tests. This will of course add extra pressure for some people and again an example of the minority spoiling things for the majority. This would also protect staff against those who are also prepared to lie. Shocking though this story is, it is clear that the outcome could have been even worse if there had been a colision or the location offered less opportunities for protection. I don't want to drive on roads with drivers who demonstrate this type of behaviour but sadly I think I may have encountered one or two in my time.

  18. Comment by Francis G posted on

    I can well under stand the examiners fear after such an incident, and would go so far to say that individual concerned should be never allowed to take any further test and be banned from driving for life.

  19. Comment by Lynda Knight posted on

    This was obviously an ill prepared test candidate, hopefully not presented for test by an ADI, who took out his frustration on the examiner. Absolutely unforgivable behaviour. Never mind having two examiners in the car next time he should not be allowed to take another test for 12 months and have to attend anger management sessions; if he has that attitude on test he will likely display road rage as a fully qualified driver.

  20. Comment by Michael Entwistle posted on

    As a driving instructor I am appalled at the actions of the candidate and I wonder if the candidate was presented to test by an ADI/PDI, as they sound as though they did not understand independent driving.
    If cameras (including audio recording) were allowed on test it would provide proof of actions of candidates and also examiners. It could also be useful feedback for pupils if they are unsuccessful.

    • Replies to Michael Entwistle>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on


      We'll be trialing body-worn cameras for driving examiners over the next few months, to help prevent incidents like this occurring.


  21. Comment by Wendy Breeze posted on

    That must have been so frightening. Not sure if i could continue like this examiner have.
    Thank goodness there was duals available which incidentally i believe should be made compulsory on driving tests. All these other changes are being made but nothing to make it safer for examiners. By the way i'm an instructor with duals and firmly believe this should be seriously considered before someone is seriously/ critically injured.

  22. Comment by Pad posted on

    Time for examiners to wear body cams as do the police.

    • Replies to Pad>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on


      We'll be trialing body-worn cameras for driving examiners over the next few months, to help prevent incidents like this occurring.


  23. Comment by Clifford Pittam posted on

    I am a retired SDE and I am afraid this a pretty regular thing, unfortunately it is not far and few between but a regular happening,but examiners don't bother to remark on it because if we did we would constantly be writing reports against these people but as we know examiners don't have enough time between tests as it is, but I agree these people should be banned from taking a test.

  24. Comment by Chris posted on

    Unfortunately these idiots are all around us on the roads, I have on many occasions presented the police with CCTV evidence and the culprit has received a knock on the door, I'm not sure what the outcome was but at least they'll know, SOMEONE IS ALWAYS WATCHING. I do hope the examiner involved is ok.

  25. Comment by Imkhan posted on

    Due to bad behaviour and bad driving in general not being penalised by the law, it is unfortunate that many motorists nowadays have dash cams fitted and I think a good way of keeping instructors and examiners safe is not for the examiners to switch the volume off during the driving test.

    • Replies to Imkhan>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on


      We'll be trialing body-worn cameras for driving examiners over the next few months, to help prevent incidents like this occurring.


  26. Comment by Martin Sale posted on

    Surprising that the Instructor had not identified this trait in the student, unless, of course, he did not attend with and ADI. Maybe this needs to be addressed?

  27. Comment by Graham Feest posted on

    The name of this candidate should be publicly named and shamed. Maybe all candidates submitting a test application should have to provide a head and shoulders picture which can be displayed alongside naming and shaming. We must do all we can to keep this person off the road. Although I fear he is the sort who will drive unlicensed if not already doing so.

    I know and understand that people express their emotions in all manner of ways when they are under stress or nervous but the behaviour exposed here is far beyond any acceptable tolerance.
    Graham Feest
    Chairman of the institute of Master Tutors of Driving

  28. Comment by Matt Trahair posted on

    It just shows the intensive training the examiners must undertake to handle and deal with such a situation. Behaviour like this should not be tolerated and legislation should be in place to automatic apply a period of cooling off to allow a re-sit, together with an extended theory test. Driver behaviour and attitude is fundamental for keeping our roads safe. Matt ADI PZ

  29. Comment by Terry Gilkes posted on

    How come he was on his driving test in the first place?
    Seems to me many driving schools just want the money regardless of the safety of anyone.
    Something is not right here and it worries me.

  30. Comment by Mel posted on

    I believe that people that abuse the examiners should be banned for life not just for a few months this would hopefuly stop this abuse.

    • Replies to Mel>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Mel,
      Thank you for your comment. From now we'll be:
      • referring all threat, physical assault and ‘driving away’ incidents to the police
      • making abusive learner drivers take their next test elsewhere
      • trialling body-worn cameras for front line staff
      • referring abuse from driving instructors to the Registrar


  31. Comment by Eshan Moossun posted on

    Am sad and extremely upset to read about what this examiner went through with this candidate. Sitting at the back of the car during a driving test sometimes ago, I witnessed a similar situation where my pupil threatened to use physical violence. He was verbally abusive but I interfered and tried to calm him down. The examiner was happy that I was in the car. In my opinion, the DVSA should take action to ban such person from driving until further investigations as to whether they should be allowed to have another chance. We already have crazy unsafe drivers on the road and most definitely, none of this type.

  32. Comment by Linda Frost posted on

    I once had an issue with a pupil that had the previous week a driving test and had failed. She contacted me with regards to lessons and so the following week I picked her up. She immediately came to my drivers side to get into the car and i explained in a professional mannor that we will go somewhere quiet which would give her the opportunity to settle into the car and for me to give a basic assessment. With this she gave me an awkward look, but i continued on. Once i agreed a few things with her we set off for a short drive, things were going ok until we reached a roundabout and after a few Q and A's on approach she became very irrate and verbally abusive by way of suggesting i was saying she couldnt drive. With this i asked her to pull over and she started to accelerate, still being aggresive and abusive. Upon telling her to pull over, she then began to threaten me when we stoped. As she was a danger at this point, i dualled her and told her to get out of the car. Fortunately this she did but in no quiet manor ! My only concern at this point was to get away from her. Anyway, upon doing some research it turned out that on the test she had taken previously, she had threatened the examiner in a very similar way because she had failed. This girl should have been reported back then by the previous instructor and it should have not got that far.

  33. Comment by Stephen Hicks posted on

    Have myself been an ADI since 2002 and i praise the examiner for the timely action taken to ensure the safety of everyone from this candidate.
    On one occasion i had a stroppy know-it-all young 19 year old male pupil out on country roads in what is commonly known in this area as The Dengie Peninsula, numerous bendy winding roads with sharp left and sharp right turns in between tall hedgerows, it was basically yet another steering control lesson to help the lad understand why we steer with both hands and why we drive at appropriate speeds on national speed limit roads, explained to him on numerous occasions that the national speed limit is a guide for motorists not a target to aim for, as the lesson got into its first quarter the lad started driving faster and faster through a series of bends, not wanting to destroy the pupils confidence i calmly asked him "is this the appropriate speed for this type of road" ..... "IF YOU WANT ME SLOW DOWN TELL ME" he shouted /boomed out across to me, at that point we were now on a straight section of road, without him realizing i placed my foot gently down on the dual brake control and as we came to a stop dipped the clutch then lifted it to stall the car, he looked at me in total disbelief when i then said to him "that is the end of today's driving lesson" his reply was "SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW" to which i replied "you sit in the passenger seat and i drive you home" Boy o Boy was he angry, throws open the drivers door and stomps around the back of the car hurling abusive words at me, o well time to go i said to myself, got into the drivers seat of the car restarted it and drove off leaving him 35 minutes from home and without his phone or jacket that had been placed on the back seat, i drove back to his house and gave his parents both the jacket and phone and politely advised that they're son had left them in the car when he got out, i then drove away, later that evening the father rang my mobile and asked why his son had been ousted from the car, told him what had happened and total silence from the open phone line, then the father exclaimed "sorry about that it's about time someone stood up to him for abusive manners, will you take him back" my reply was "No and there is no charge for today's exercise". Never saw him again and all his mates came to me afterwards for is lessons and all knew i had turfed him out of the car even before starting lessons with me.

  34. Comment by Frederick Anderson posted on

    Yes, one of several good reasons why I am glad to view my driver training career from behind the safety barriers of retirement! I had only one client whose driving test behaviour was outwardly violent and his previous form was, given a limited intellect, just short of angelic. Fortunately he was extravagantly under-built, so his threats against his six-foot tall, athletically inclined examiner could be considered ridiculous. The serious issue here is the likely behaviour of these drivers if they ever get onto the road, legally or not. And it is worth recognising that the angel on a driving test is not necessarily any better. I have encountered one or two ex-clients in road situations that, on reflection, I am ashamed to have taught.

  35. Comment by The Gentleman posted on

    That is disgraceful.
    No one should have to endure that kind of behaviour.
    Clearly the idiot felt less confident in his driving ability "on the day" but instead of bucking up looked for someone to blame. Blameless society. Putting several lives at risk because of his own ineptitude? People need to start taking responsibility. Sadly more and more incidents, anywhere, over trivial things, have become the norm. A British disease? Some days it seems like it.
    None of which helps people like yourself and I'm sorry that it has clearly affected you. You did nothing wrong and clearly remained the consummate professional throughout.

  36. Comment by Donna Brenton posted on

    This person should not have been taking a test if he didn't know to approach a roundabout in the right lane for taking a third exit! The examiners are just doing their job and besides gave clear instructions several times. I agree with others on here the sad thing is they will be on the road and will kill or injure innocent motorists or pedestrians!

  37. Comment by Mitch Peeke ADI posted on

    Fortunately, such cases are still rare but I did have one guy like that a few years ago. He had already lost his licence, and his job, for drink driving. Of course he had to take his test again. On his lessons, he seemed repentant but as he came out of the test centre, he stalled it. Convincing himself that he had failed, he then drove aggressively throughout the rest of the test, at the end of which, the examiner (a thoroughly nice guy and an ex-police officer) failed him purely for the aggressive nature of his driving and his oafish inconsiderate behaviour toward other road users. I last saw the student head-butting and kicking a cash dispenser for its apparent lethargy in dispensing his money! Needless to say, when he rang me two weeks later with another test appointment, I declined to take him!

  38. Comment by Rob posted on

    I would not tolerate this from any of my pupils. They would be looking for a new instructor.
    Their details would also be passed to colleagues in the hope that finding someone to teach them would be difficult.

  39. Comment by MI Child posted on

    What we have here is an example of one of those humans. They are nice, nasty, kind hearted, selfish, gentle, violent, polite, rude and just about everything else you can care to mention.
    Instructors will have to instruct them and examiners will have to examine them.
    Parents/Guardians set standards at home.
    Teachers set standards in schools
    Instructors set the standard in their car.
    Examiners just have to hope the above set good standards.
    The examiner can and should end the test anytime the behaviour of a candidate falls below that which we would normally expect.

  40. Comment by Karen E. posted on

    It is totally unacceptable to even allow these learners to have a full licence. In my opinion they should be banned for such behaviour for a few years as these people will behave like that with other road users once they have passed. Maybe then they will realise their responsibilities as a driver