The government has announced new proposals to the practical driving test in an attempt to make it better reflect of real-life driving and ensure that newly qualified drivers are better prepared.
The proposals – announced by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) – are designed to reduce the number of collisions involving new drivers in the first post-test year on the road, foster a fall in the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads, and ensure safer drivers and journeys.
The proposed changes are: An increase in the independent driving element of the test, from 10 to 20 minutes.
Asking test candidates to follow directions on a satellite navigation system, as opposed to following road signs.
Replacing current manoeuvres such as reversing around a corner with more real-life scenarios, such as driving into, and reversing out of, a parking bay.
Asking one of the two vehicle safety questions (known as ‘show me, tell me’) while the candidate is driving: for example, asking candidates to use the rear heated screen or air conditioning. Introducing the use of satellite navigation – more than half of car drivers are now using sat navs and the government wants new drivers to be trained to use these safely – is designed to allow examiners to better assess how pupils plan, manage and drive a journey independently.
This is more like the way they driver after passing the test, rather than the traditional approach of pupils being directed along a route by the examiner in the passenger seat.
The proposals are designed to make the test better reflect real-life driving
It can also allow the examiners see how candidates deal with the in-vehicle distractions that modern motoring technology adds to driving. It should also eradicate the practice of pupils and trainers learning a set number of known test routes in order to pass: in real life, drivers use a combination of familiar and unfamiliar routes daily.
Candidates will be given more responsibility for decision making during the test
Lesley Young, DVSA
These changes are also designed to help reduce the number of collisions on higher-risk roads, where most fatal collisions occur: 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.
The next change has the intention of replacing manoeuvres with low-risk implications – such as the three-point turn (or ‘turn in road’, as it is now known) – with some that carry more risk of damage or collision, such as pulling up on the right-hand side of the road and parking against the traffic flow or bay parking.
The final innovation is designed to assess a candidate’s ability to manage multiple distractions on the move will be to ask them to perform a ‘show me, tell me’ task while driving, instead of in a stationary position at the test centre or at the side of the road.
The driver will be asked to demonstrate how a key function of the car works, such as a de-mister or air conditioning, while on the move.
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.”
Lesley Young, the DVSA’s chief driving examiner, 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.
The new test will include independent driving and safe use of satellite navigation
“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 have come in the wake of trials with more than 4,500 learner drivers and 850 driving instructors in 32 locations across Great Britain. Those involved took part in focus groups, interviews, surveys and practical assessments where candidates were split into a control and trial groups to compare performance between the existing practical car test and a trial version.
The feedback on the changes from both driver trainers and pupils has been overwhelmingly positive. The trial exceeded its original targets for participating candidates and passes in both the trial and control groups. Groups.
Successful candidates and supervising drivers involved in the trial have all been in agreement that the new test was a better preparation for post-test driving than the current test.
Driving test set up
Feedback on the new format has been highly positive
Carly Brookfield, chief executive of the DIA – the largest organisation in the UK representing driving instructors – commented: “The use of sat navs gives us the best opportunity to examine a self-directed drive. Drivers use sat navs to plan and manage their journeys every day now, and that isn’t going to stop: it’s going to become more widespread and we need to ensure they can manage the use of this technology in the driving environment.
“In addition, the manoeuvres we currently examine on the test do not present a high level of risk in real-life driving and there are better manoeuvres we can use to understand driving capability and driver risk management than the old three-point turn. The trial has shown that these changes have clear benefits for the development of safer, independent drivers and that they felt better able to manage real-life driving as a result of the test and the preparation they realise they need to do to pass the trial test.
“We fully welcome the developments to the test and are compelled by the evidence we have seen to date from the trial to recommend that these long overdue developments are made to a driving test, which has been fundamentally unchanged for over 20 years and has not kept pace with how our roads and driver behaviour has developed over time.”
A six-week consultation closes on 25 August 2016.