The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) announced several changes to the driving test in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) in December last year, focusing on the use of technology, and are designed “to make sure new drivers have the skills they’ll need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving.”
To begin with, changes are now in force for cars only, with the DVSA looking at extending the reforms to other vehicular tests.
There are four major changes:
- Doubling the length of time required to prove independent driving to 20 minutes, during which the candidate is required to drive without turn-by-turn directions from the examiner. This will mean that about half the overall test length involves independent driving. This extended period is intended to take candidates away from the comfort zone of the roads around the driving centre, and demonstrate their competence on more unfamiliar roads.
- Following directions from a sat nav. A sat nav will be provided and set up by an examiner, and the candidate will be required to follow its instructions to a destination. Not all tests will do this, however – 1 in 5 won’t use a sat nav, but require the use of road traffic signs instead. According to the RAC, the change “better reflects modern driving and encourages the safe use of sat-nav by newly qualified drivers.”
- Changes to reversing manoeuvres. Candidates will no longer be required to reverse around a corner or do a full turn in a road, although the skills should still be taught during driving lessons. Instead, one of three new possible reversing manoeuvres will be requested – parallel park on the side of the road, parallel park in a bay by either driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out, or pull up on the side of the road, before reversing and rejoining traffic.
- Answer a vehicle safety question while driving. The candidate is expected to respond to two questions asked by the examiner, one of which requires a verbal answer before the test starts, and the other requires a practical demonstration while the car is in motion. Although the RAC has mentioned concerns over whether this task may be distracting, the conclusion was that “it is acceptable as long as the tester only asks the question when it is least likely to pose a safety risk.”
In general, the test will adhere to the same format as ever, with no change to the pass mark (no more than 15 minors and no majors), the same length of time (around 40 minutes), and the same cost. Other changes are apparently being considered or are currently being researched by the DVSA, including changes to licences for u25s, who are involved in nearly 1 in 3 crashes on UK roads, limiting the number of passengers allowed and further restricting the levels of blood alcohol allowed to drive. Under 25s pay more for their car insurance on average than any other drivers on the road at the moment – it’s unclear as of yet whether this would change following these proposed changes.