It’s not often a shake up of the Driving Test occurs for obvious reasons; we can’t all be driving to a different tune. But from 4 December 2017 the UK will see some significant changes to how the Driving Test is implemented that embrace more modern, real world driving. Arguably, the last major change to the Driving Test was almost certainly the introduction of the written test in 1996 (yes, it was that long ago).
The one that is being picked up on the most is the inclusion of Sat Nav use. From December this year the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) has announced that learner drivers will be required to navigate a set destination using a Sat Nav. This serves as an acknowledgement that so many modern vehicles are now generally equipped with Sat Nav systems and that they are no longer thought of so much as the aftermarket Christmas present for the car enthusiast. These days, almost 50% of all drivers own or have a built in Sat Nav system in their car, and this is set to steadily increase.
The independent driving section of the test will double from 10 to 20 minutes. Another thing that will change that we are all so familiar with seeing learner drivers attempting is the removal of the dreaded reversing round a corner, replacing this will be manoeuvring in and out of a parking bay – this will be either reversing in and driving out, or driving in and reversing out.
The idea is that by bringing the Driving Test up to date, the DVSA hopes to improve the day-to-day driver experience, rather than throwing new drivers in at the deep end once the driving instructor is no longer in the car to explain what to do. I recall my driving instructor suggesting that I, rather than he, fill the car up with petrol when we needed to; a nice touch I thought.
The Sat Nav part will be absorbed into the independent driving part of the test. Prior to December, this part of the test requires the learner to read a map (while stationary) and remember a route then drive the route. Following the changes, the extra ten minutes will require the driver to follow Sat Nav instructions where a Sat Nav is available.
The parking bay manoeuvre will be bunched in with parallel parking on the side of the road and pulling up on the right-hand side of a road as a choice – reversing around a corner and the three-point turn in the road will no longer be part of the exam. The examiner will ask the driver to perform one of these options as opposed to the current requirement of performing two of the existing options.
Far more important than the Sat Nav part of the new changes in my opinion is the option to be able to take your car onto a motorway with your (ADI approved) driving instructor, as long as you are in a dual control car. This will be a voluntary part, but has to be a very good idea.
Another good thing is the inclusion of a section to make sure that the driver has a basic knowledge of how the car works. From December, the examiner will ask the learner one ‘show me’ or ‘tell me’ question; for example, ‘how do you turn on the windscreen washers?’ Crucial information for safe driving and maintaining your vehicle, but not currently part of the Driving Test.
All good stuff of course, though I am a bit surprised that reversing around a corner is to be removed. Having recently watched a new driver scrape her car along a gate trying to reverse out of the way of an oncoming vehicle on a narrow road, I am not sure this particular omission is such a wise move.