Quieter roads and "incredibly motivated" key workers taking their tests are thought to be behind the rate also hitting a record high nationally in 2020-21.
Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency data shows that, of 1,132 practical tests at South Shields Test Centre in 2020-21, 557 (49%) ended in success – up from 47% the previous year.
In all 320 out of 662 people passed on the first attempt. At 48% this was below the national average of 51%.
Far fewer tests were undertaken as only key workers were permitted to take them during the enforced lockdowns – 1,132 in 2020-21, compared to 4,248 in 2019-20.
Nationally a record 50% of tests in 2020-21 resulted in a pass but the number of tests dropped to 437,000 – down from 1.6 million the previous year.
Robert Cowell, interim managing director of AA Driving School, said: “Tests were only allowed for key workers who needed to drive for their job and this probably also goes some way to explaining the higher pass rate as the candidates would have been incredibly motivated to pass."
Mr Cowell said that demand for driving tests is now "sky-high" – with learners facing a waiting time of more than three months to book one.
Loveday Ryder, DVSA chief executive, said: "All candidates are assessed to the same level and the result of their test is entirely dependent on their performance on the day."