DVSA aims to improve ‘real-life’ driving with test changes

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has outlined a number of proposed changes to the driving test, which are being made in order to improve road safety. 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 and closes on 25 August 2016.

The changes 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.

The changes are, at least in part, acknowledge the fact that cars are becoming more and more technologically drive. For example, sat nav usage has increased from 32.5 per cent in 2009 to 51.9 per cent in 2014. Indeed, no 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 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”

DVSA chief driving examiner, Lesley Young, added: “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.”

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.

DVSA carries out over 1.6 million driving tests every year. In the last 5 years 3 per cent of reported road accidents had the contributory factor ‘learner or driver inexperience’. The trial is due to end later this year and a full report on the findings will be published in due course.

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.

Edmund King OBE, AA president, commented: “ 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.”


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