Thursday, July 14, 2016
Planned changes include introduction of Satellite Navigation on tests to enable better assessment of candidate’s ability to drive independently
Replacement of traditionally tested manoeuvres, such as the ‘three point turn’ with those deemed more risky in real life driving
The DVSA has launched a public consultation on proposals to change the practical driving test so it offers a better opportunity for pupils to be assessed on their ability to drive independently and safely once licenced.
Over the last year DVSA has run an in-depth trial to understand the impact of key changes to the current practical test. Over 1000 ADIs registered on the trial, and over 4,500 learners 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.
Key changes examined in the trial include the introduction of satellite navigation and the replacement of traditional manoeuvres. The main changes are:
increase the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes
ask candidates to follow directions on a sat nav as an alternative to following road signs
replace current manoeuvres such as ‘reverse around a corner’ with more real life scenarios for example, driving into and reversing out of a parking bay
ask 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:
“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”
The introduction of satellite navigation is designed to allow Examiners to better assess how pupils plan, manage and drive a journey independently. This would replace the traditional approach of pupils following road signs or being directed along a route by the Examiner in the passenger seat – something that is unreflective of how pupils will drive once they are licenced drivers. This exercise is also useful in negating the tendency of those pupils and trainers who merely ‘cram’ a set number of known ‘test’ routes in order to pass, when in real life new licencees will need to be able drive a combination of familiar and unfamiliar routes. The use of sat nav also has an additional benefit as it allows the assessment of how candidates deal with elements of distraction that modern motoring technology adds to the drive. To further understand a candidate’s ability to manage multiple distractions on the move, they will also be asked to perform a ‘show me, tell me’ task on the go – rather than in a stationary position, normally at the test centre or at the side of the road, as has been historically been the norm. This will involve the driver being asked to demonstrate how a key function of the car works, such as a de-mister or air conditioning, on the move.
Developing the type of manoeuvres examined on test includes the proposal to replace those manoeuvres which have low risk implications (such as the ‘turn in road’) with those manoeuvres which carry more risk of damage or collision – such as pulling up on the right hand side of the road and parking contra the traffic flow, and bay parking.
The new proposals attracted controversy when first mooted as the trial launched in 2015. Some commentators were nervous of the element of introducing sat navs in particular.
Carly Brookfield, DIA CEO commented ‘At the time of the launch of the trial last year I was appearing on national radio and TV programmes alongside supposed motoring experts who were furiously claiming that these changes were ridiculous – without seemingly understanding modern driver training and modern driving risks – and the need for the driving test to catch up. The trial has shown that these changes have clear benefits for the development of safer, independent drivers. Candidates on the trial test felt more aware of their responsibility and the challenges in managing real life driving on real life roads as a result of the test (and also more aware of the further preparation they would need to do to pass a new test of this nature). Expert transport researchers, professional driver trainers, driver education and road safety bodies like ourselves, examiners and pupils learning to drive right now have been heavily involved in the assessment of these proposed changes and the feedback from all of those involved has been positive. We fully welcome this opportunity to evolve the driving test and are compelled by the evidence we have seen to date from the trial to recommend that these long overdue developments are made.’
The DVSA has now received the findings of the ‘Transforming the Practical Driving Test’ trial and the feedback on the changes from both driver trainers and pupils has been encouraging. As the trial has exceeded its original targets for participating candidates and passes in both the trial and control groups, registration closed in late January for ADIs and in early March for learner drivers. 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. The trial has resulted in some clear indications, which have identified that learners:
Had a driving style that was less ‘decisive, over-confident and fast’, and was therefore safer and more considered
Had greater confidence that they could safely use a sat-nav and manage self directed journeys
Spent more time on fast dual carriageways and other riskier roads with their ADI when learning.
Over and above the proposed changes, the trial also represents a timely study of the driving test, and will provide invaluable data to road safety practitioners across Great Britain to increase our understanding about learning to drive.
To view the consultation and respond visit: