Changes mean driving test ‘will reflect real-life driving’

Millions of newly qualified drivers will be better prepared for life on the road under changes to the driving test that will better reflect real life driving.

The proposals announced by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will help reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads, and ensure safer drivers and journeys.

The changes are:

  • increase the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes;
  • ask candidates to follow directions on a sat nav as an alternative to following road signs;
  • replace current manoeuvres such as ‘reverse around a corner’ with more real life scenarios for example, driving into and reversing out of a parking bay;
  • ask one of the two vehicle safety questions while the candidate is driving, for example, asking candidates to use the rear heated screen.

DVSA chief executive, Gareth Llewellyn, said: “Great Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world. But there is scope to do more to keep road users safe – particularly newly qualified drivers.

“Making sure the test better assesses a driver’s ability to drive safely and independently is part of our strategy to help every driver through a lifetime of safe driving”

These changes are designed to help reduce the number of collisions on higher risk roads – most fatal collisions are on this type of road, and using sat navs will open up routes to include these.

More than half of car drivers are now using sat navs, and the government wants new drivers to be trained to use these safely.

DVSA chief driving examiner, Lesley Young, said: “Research has shown that new drivers find ‘independent driving’ training valuable, as they can relate it to driving once they’ve passed their test.

“Candidates will be given more responsibility for decision making during the test. We want them to show they can cope with distractions and assess risk, without the intervention of their instructor or examiner.”

The changes, subject to the outcome of research and consultation feedback, will be introduced in early 2017. The changes have been trialled with more than 4,500 learner drivers and 850 driving instructors in 32 locations across Great Britain. The 6-week consultation starts today (14 July) and closes on 25 August 2016.

DVSA is working with the Transport Research Laboratory to find out how the proposed changes better reflect real-life driving. DVSA has also consulted with representatives from the driver training industry (including the approved driving instructor associations, RAC, IAM, RoSPA and the AA) who have been positive and supportive of the proposals.

Comments from the driver training industry

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Whether it is vehicle emission standards or driving tests, the closer they reflect what happens in the real world the better. From technology to traffic volume to the type of cars on the road, motorists are living in a rapidly changing environment and the learning process needs to reflect that.

“These proposed changes recognise that it is more important for candidates to demonstrate the capability to drive independently on high-risk roads, than being able to reverse flawlessly into a quiet cul-de-sac.  The new approach will be deemed a success if, in the longer-term, it produces better-prepared drivers and we experience fewer road casualties. Meantime, we hope these common sense changes will be rolled out swiftly.”

Mark Peacock, head of BSM said: “The proposed changes to the practical driving test, particularly the extended independent driving and use of a Sat Nav, should help to produce better, safer motorists. We have already had positive feedback from our instructors and their pupils and therefore fully support these proposed changes.”

Edmund King OBE, AA president, said: “We know that new drivers are a higher risk on the roads therefore we need to better prepare them for real world driving. These changes will test drivers in a more realistic manner which is essential to improving their safety once their L plates are removed.”

John Lepine MBE general manager of The Motor Schools Association of Great Britain (MDA GB) said: “We have been pleased to be involved with this initiative from the beginning. Great Britain’s driver trainers are very excited by the opportunity to teach more real-life driving to new drivers. Incorporating these changes into the test will mean that learners will be better prepared for the distractions that modern driving conditions produce.   Many of our members have been involved in the trials of the revised test and have said their pupils have really enjoyed the changed syllabus.”

Paul Caddick, editor, Intelligent Instructor: “This is a long awaited drive forward for the driving test. It means candidates will have to sow a greater sense of real life driving skills, including multi-tasking and thinking for themselves while driving. Of course this requires them to have the basic grounding in practical driving skills, theoretical knowledge, whilst implementing them safely and responsibly.

“What’s more, it will encourage the whole driver training process to push forward a real understanding of driving, in all conditions, and reduce the chance of candidates being taught just to pass the test.

“Hopefully this is just the start of a new era of driver training and testing, improving everyone’s safety on the road.”

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