Driving test changes

Driving test changes & how they compare to the rest of the world

It has been a year since the UK’s driving test changes were enforced, with those sitting a practical exam now required to follow directions using a sat nav, getting to grips with different reversing manoeuvres, having to answer a vehicle safety question while driving, and going through the independent driving part of the test for 20 minutes.

How have the alterations been received by learner drivers and instructors alike? Also, is there anything we can learn from driving tests across the globe when it comes to determining what the next changes should be? Car dealership Motorparks, which stocks the exceptional Ford Focus ST Estate among many other stylish, practical and affordable vehicles, aims to find out…

A closer look at the changes

On December 4t 2017, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) made four changes to the car driving test in England, Scotland, and Wales — alterations which are “designed to make sure new drivers have the skills they’ll need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving”, acknowledged 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. 

Another change is that many driving test candidates will now be asked to follow directions from a sat nav during the independent driving portion of the practical examination. 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.

Reversing manoeuvres have been adjusted quite significantly too. 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. Parallel park at the side of the road.
  2. Park in a bay, which will go one of two ways and be selected by the examiner:
  3. Drive in and then reverse out of a bay
  4. Reverse in and then drive out of a bay
  5. Pull up on the right-hand side of the road, before reversing for two car lengths and then rejoining the traffic.

Rounding out the recent changes is that the examiner will now ask someone sitting a driving test two vehicle safety questions at some point during their examination. 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 reaction to the changes

Speaking as the driving test alterations were being announced, the chief executive of the DVSA Gareth Llewellyn pointed out: “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.”

Andrew Jones, Britain’s Transport Minister, was an early supporter of the changes. 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.”

Members of the public were behind the alterations when they were proposed too. 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.

How do people feel now that the changes have been put into practice though? 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.

Ideas for future driving test changes

If the DVSA is looking to make any further alterations to the driving tests of England, Scotland and Wales, inspiration could be gained from driving tests that motorists must sit across the globe. Here’s three ideas…

1.    Examiners trained to help nervous candidates

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.”

To help anxious drivers even more though, the Netherlands may have a perfect solution. 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.    Checking for car leaks

In South Africa, those sitting a driving test can fail their examination even before they get behind the wheel of a 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.

It’s not just oil that can leak from a vehicle 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.    Night-time driving sessions

Many of us will drive after the sun goes down, whether it is to complete a commute from work, at the end of a late-night shopping outing or when heading home after being out for a meal or cinema 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.

We’ll have to wait and see if any of these ideas make it into the driving test of England, Wales and Scotland in the months and years to come. If you’re preparing to sit an examination soon though, we wish you the best of luck!