One year has passed since the changes to the UK driving test were implemented, with practical driving exam candidates now required to follow directions from a sat nav, undergo 20 minutes of independent driving and get used to a range of different reversing manoeuvres.
So, one year on from the changes, how have they been received by learners and instructors and can we learn anything from other driving test formats around the world in order to determine future test revisions? Motorparks, retailers of a range of reasonably priced vehicles including used Mazda are here to take a closer look at the matter…
Examining the changes
The DVSA implemented four alterations to the UK car driving test in December 2017. These revisions were designed to ensure that “new drivers have the skills they’ll need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving”, according to GOV.UK. The first alteration was that the independent driving segment of a driving test was extended from around ten minutes to around 20 minutes. Those sitting a test would need to show that they can drive adequately during this time without any turn-by-turn directions from the driving examiner.
One of the biggest changes to the test involved candidates being required to follow a sat nav as part of their independent driving. Learner drivers don’t need to worry about bringing their own gadgets either — the examiner will provide a TomTom Start 52 sat nav, even setting it up and setting the route. Take note too that someone won’t fail a test if they go the wrong way to the directions advised by the sat nav, unless it results in a fault being made. Those sitting a test can also ask the examiner for confirmation about where they are going when following a sat nav’s directions.
There were also alterations to the reversing manoevres. For example, a learner driver will no longer be tested that they can successfully reverse around a corner or make a turn in the road. Instead, they will be requested to perform one of these three reversing techniques:
1. Park in a bay, which will go one of two ways and be selected by the examiner:
A. Drive in and then reverse out of a bay
B. Reverse in and then drive out of a bay
2. Parallel park at the side of the road.
3. Pull up on the right-hand side of the road, before reversing for two car lengths and then rejoining the traffic.
Finally, the vehicle safety questions will now be asked by the examiner at some point during the driving exam. There will be a ‘tell me’ question at the beginning of the test ahead of any driving, where someone will need to explain how they would go about carrying out a safety task. Once driving has commenced, a driving test candidate will then be asked a ‘show me’ question in a manner where they will need to demonstrate how they would conduct the safety task.
The public reaction
Last year, the chief Executive of the DVSA Gareth Llwellyn commented that: “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.”
Britain’s Minister for Transport Andrew Jones also supported the test revisions. He stated: “Our roads are among the safest in the world. However, road collisions are the biggest killer of young people. These changes will help us to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads and equip new drivers with the skill they need to use our roads safely.”
The public reaction to the changes was also mainly positive. Ahead of the changes being put into place, a public consultation involving more than 3,900 people occurred. During the consultation, 88.2 per cent were behind the move to increase the independent driving part of the examination. 78.6 per cent were in favour of the adjustments to the reversing manoeuvres, 78.4 per cent backed the introduction of a show me question while someone sitting a driving test was behind the wheel, and 70.8 per cent gave a thumbs up to candidates having to follow directions from a sat nav.
But how are people feeling now that the changes have been in place for a year? In their Driving test changes in 2017: impact summary report, the DVSA recorded that 81.2 per cent of new drivers believed the driving test now prepared them for driving on Great Britain’s roads. The report also acknowledged that 86.3 per cent of new drivers now use a sat nav at least some of the time when they are driving. 86.2 per cent felt confident that they can drive safely while following directions provided to them via one of these gadgets.
What changes could be made in the future?
Suggestions for further amendments by the DVSA in the UK can be taken from driving test formats from around the world. Here are three of our top suggestions:
1. Specialist examiners for nervous drivers
Many new drivers suffer from nervousness and anxiety when it comes to getting out on the roads. According to a major report by the University of Cambridge which was published in the medical journal Brain and Behavior, over eight million people across the UK suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. Taking a driving test can obviously be a stressful time, with chief driving examiner Lesley Young offering these words of advice to The Sunday Times’ Driving segment: “It’s normal to be nervous before your test, but if you’re properly prepared and your instructor thinks you’re ready, then there’s really no reason to worry. Your examiner’s not trying to catch you out; they just want to make sure that you can drive safely.”
The Netherlands have come up with a solution to help nervous drivers. Driving test candidates across that country can request a faalangstexamen — an examination that is carried out by an examiner who is trained specifically to deal with those sitting a test who feel very nervous.
2. Inspecting the vehicle for leaks
Did you know that in South Africa, you can fail your driving test before you even get in the vehicle? This is because one reason for failure is a driver forgetting to check under their car for any leaks. A motorist in the south-east London district of Chislehurst certainly could have benefitted from carrying out this procedure, after The Express reported that the driver was fined more than £1,000 for damage after their car leaked oil when it was parked up.
Leaks aren’t just limited to oil either. Motorists should also be regularly checking that their set of wheels isn’t leaking antifreeze, fuel, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, windscreen washer fluid or water.
3. Driving at night
Most of us will have to drive at night at some point, whether that involves driving home from work or coming back late from a day-trip. However, road casualty statistics reported on by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reveal that 40 per cent of collisions will be recorded during the hours of darkness. In Sweden though, people who are learning to drive get to grips with being behind the wheel when it’s dark by taking compulsory night-time driving sessions. Even if they pass their driving test during the summer, many motorists in this part of Scandinavia will seek out a driving school throughout the winter months to undergo a night-driving course.
As for whether any of these suggestions end up being implemented into the driving test in the future, we will have to wait and see – and if you’re gearing up to sit your own test soon, we wish you luck and safe driving!