Driving Test changes meet with general approval

Changes to the driving test will help save lives and improve road safety, said transport minister Andrew Jones. Learner drivers will need to pass a modern test that will include new manoeuvres and a longer independent driving section to make sure drivers have the skills, knowledge and confidence to drive on their own. The changes will also include a section where drivers use satellite navigation to find their way.

Andrew Jones said: “We have some of the safest roads in the world but we are always looking to make them safer. These changes will help reduce the number of people killed or injured on our roads and equip new drivers with the skills they need to use our roads safely.

“Ensuring the driving test is relevant in the 21st century – for example, the introduction of sat navs, will go a long way towards doing this.”

The new driving test will come into force on 4 December 2017. The four changes are:

  • an increase of the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes;
  • asking candidates to follow directions on a sat nav as an alternative to following road signs;
  • replacing current manoeuvres such as ‘reverse around a corner’ with more real life scenarios, such as driving into and reversing out of a parking bay;
  • and asking 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: “DVSA’s priority is to help you through a lifetime of safe driving. Making sure the driving test better assesses a driver’s ability to drive safely and independently is part of our strategy to help you stay safe on Britain’s roads. It’s vital that the driving test keeps up to date with new vehicle technology and the areas where new drivers face the greatest risk once they’ve passed their test.”

Around half of all car drivers now have a sat nav and to reflect the changing behaviours of drivers, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) want new drivers to be trained on how to use them safely. This was supported by 70 per cent of respondents from last year’s consultation.

Using sat navs will encourage more practice of independent driving and teach new drivers the skills they need to manage distractions.

Currently candidates spend a large amount of their test on low risk roads, such as housing estates so they can carry out the current manoeuvres. The new-style manoeuvres will allow DVSA to assess the same skill set as the changes are more representative of what a new driver will experience in their everyday driving.

Reducing the focus on slow speed manoeuvres in quiet low risk roads and increasing independent driving will allow DVSA examiners to better assess the learner’s ability to drive safely on higher-risk roads, where statistically, new drivers have the most crashes.

Feedback on the changes

DVSA received more than 3,900 responses to the public consultation on the changes to the test.

  • 88 per cent agreed with increasing the length of the independent driving part of the test
  • 71 per cent agreed with asking candidates to follow directions from a sat nav
  • 79 per cent agreed with the plans to change the reversing manoeuvres that are test
  • 78 per cent agreed with asking the ‘show me’ question while the candidate is driving

Representatives from the driver training industry are also supportive of the changes. This includes driving instructor associations, the RAC, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), AA and the driving training National Associations Strategic Partnership (NASP).

RAC Foundation director, Steve Gooding, said: “We are very supportive of the revisions DVSA is making to the practical driving test, which will mean candidates undergo a far more realistic assessment of their readiness to take to the road unsupervised.

“Much has changed since the first driving test was taken in 1935, and it must be right that the test evolves, just as the cars we drive are themselves changing to incorporate ever more driver assist technology such as inbuilt sat nav systems. Novice drivers need to demonstrate the right skills and driving style to cope with the new environment.

“Clearly driving examiners and instructors both need time to adjust to the new test, in particular to ensure that candidates are well-prepared, nevertheless it is good to know that the new test will be running by the end of this calendar year.”

National Associations Strategic Partnership (NASP) chair, Lynne Barrie, said: “NASP welcomes the changes to the practical driving test and believes the key to safer drivers is better training and preparation. Improving the driving test will give new drivers the skills needed for everyday driving. This will help to prepare new drivers for a safer driving career and hopefully help to reduce road casualties.”

DVSA and the Transport Research Laboratory also trialled the changes with over 4,300 learner drivers and over 860 driving instructors. Feedback from the trial was also described as positive.

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