In the biggest shake-up of the British driving test since the written theory exam in 1996, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has today implemented major changes in the way we pass the test.
The idea behind the changes is to make the test a more realistic assessment of a driver’s ability as part of a Government plan to reduce the number of young people killed on the roads.
According to the DVSA, the majority of accidents resulting in death or serious injury occur on high-speed roads (not including motorways), and younger drivers are seven times more likely to be killed or injured than their counterparts aged over 25. It is believed that this is largely down to a lack of experience on the roads.
One of the biggest changes is the doubling of the period of the “independent driving” section, where candidates are observed without interference from the examiner, which now lasts 20 minutes to allow the examiner more time to assess and look for faults.
In terms of the manoeuvres, those less used such as reversing around a corner have been withdrawn from the assessment, but others such as entering a parking bay have been entered.
The new test also includes a section where prospective drivers must demonstrate their ability to use a SatNav, or other such technology. One in five tests will eschew SatNav in favour of using road signs.
The “tell me” section of the test will continue to take place while the car is parked, however the “show me” section will take place while the car is in motion, asking questions about procedures such as washing the windscreen using controls and wipers and asking about vehicle safety.
The DVSA’s chief driving examiner Lesley Young said: “The new test will help prepare new drivers for driving on modern roads and support a reduction in the number of young people killed or seriously injured.”
Thousands of examiners have protested one aspect of the new test, however, where learners will be asked to pull over onto the opposite side of the road, reverse two car lengths, then rejoin the flow of traffic in the same direction. This manoeuvre would be in contradiction of section 239 of the highway code.
The public backs the changes, with 70% of 3,900 respondents to a DVLA survey saying they agree, as have over 860 instructors and 4,300 candidates who have already completed the new format test, returning “positive” feedback.
In other long-term road safety plans, learners will be able to take motorway lessons with an approved instructor, and the agency is looking at implementing other high-tech aspects of driving into the test in the future as the concept of driverless cars starts to gain traction, and road tests of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles are already taking place on Britain’s roads.
Ms Young said: “We’ll continue to explore opportunities to further develop driver training and testing to make sure the driving test reflects real life driving.”
Road safety groups and driving experts have welcomed the changes overall. AA President Edmund King is reported as saying that the new test “now reflects real-life driving”, predicting that people who pass the new test will have “more confidence when driving solo”.
Charity RAC Foundation’s Director Steve Gooding said: “Coming up with revisions to the driving test that better reflect the real world challenges of driving in traffic must be a good move.”
Sonya Hurt, chair of Road Safety GB, remarked that: “Modern vehicles feature an increasing array of driver assist technology, and as such it is sensible and realistic to test the candidate’s ability to use a sat nav system.’We also welcome the fact that the new regime will allow test candidates more time on the rural road network, where the consequences of inexperience can be particularly devastating.”
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