Bath School of Motoring and Lanham's Driving School Ltd

Successfully teaching to drive in Bath & surrounding areas for over 45 years

Planned Test Changes

Written by: Bath School of Motoring


Proposed changes to the car driving test, including the use of sat navs, are being supported by RoSPA.

The Government believes that strengthening the training and testing of learner drivers, and ensuring that the test reflects modern driving, will diminish the risks posed by young drivers to themselves and other road users.

Background - Young or novice drivers account for around 20& of road deaths, even though they comprise only 7% of full licence holders and drive less mileage than other drivers.  In 2014, 342 people were killed in road accidents involving young drivers, including 120 young drivers, 86 passengers of young drivers and 136 other road users.  Past changes to the car driving test, designed to reduce young driver risk, include the Theory and Hazard Perception Tests, extending the Practical Driving Test, a new learning to drive syllabus, New Drivers Act and Pass Plus, However young drivers continue to face and create a high and disproportionate risk;1 in 5 crash within their first 6 months of driving and they have a higher crash risk than other drivers, with their crashes more likely to be severe in nature, especially on rural roads.

Proposed driving test changes and RoSPA's responses - (1) Increase the independent driving section of the practical driving test from 10 to 20 minutes - RoSPA strongly supports the proposal to increase the test's independent driving section, which involves the candidate driving between locations without direction from the examiner.  This proposal should allow candidates the opportunity to demonstrate that they can drive independently, which is exactly what they need to be able to do once they pass their test.  Young drivers are most at risk immediately after passing their test and in their first year of driving.  They will often have good car controlskills and fast reactions but because of the lack of experience are poor at identifying hazards and assessing risk and tend to overestimate their ability to avoid the accident.  As new drivers gain more driving experience their accident rate begins to fall.  Therefore, RoSPA supports and commends this measure which will help to prepare young drivers for the rigours of the road once they are no longer supervised.

(2) Include the provision for directions to be followed from sat navs in the independent driving section of the test - Many drivers now rely heavily on satelllite navigation devices and it makes practical sense to teach them to use and follow the directions provided in a safe fashion.  Some young drivers may not realise that they must demonstrate that they are in control of the vehicle at all times and touching a sat nav whilst driving to change the route is, therefore, an illegal practice.  It is also important for them to realise that they should not blindly follow the sat nav's directions as the suggested route may not always be appropriate if, for example, the sat nav's map has not been updated recently or there are temporary roadworks on a route.

Sat navs will increase the number and variety of test routes which can be used from the centre because it will no longer be necessary to rely exclusively on road signs.  Traditionally many test routes are primarily urban in nature but most fatalities occur on rural roads, with a disproportionate number involving younger inexperienced drivers.  Where conditions allow, the training and testing on rural and high-speed roads is very important and RoSPA strongly supports measures which will allow this.

(3) Modify manoeuvres, such as reversing arouns a corner, so they are undertaken during the natural course of the test drive, in a less staged way than has traditionally been the case.  These would be augmented by exercises like driving in and reversing out of parking bays - It is imperative that learner drivers have the skills to safely control and manoeuvre the vehicle in situations that reflect modern driving.  Currently, learner drivers are taught to reverse arouns a corner and how to turn in quiet roads.  However, as driving conditions change these situations are less common.  The proposed changes to test a candidate's ability to, for example, pull in and reverse out of a parking bay, pull up on the right or reverse two car lengths and re-join the flow of traffic are far more realistic skills which they will need to be able to safely carry out normal traffic conditions once they have passed their test.

When a car is being reversed out of a tight space such as a parking bay the driver has a limited view and pedestrians or approaching vehicles may not be visible.  Therefore, RoSPA recommends that where possible it is better to reverse into the space and drive off forwards.  For this reason it would be prudent to still include a reverse parking manoeuvre to ensure that both manoeuvres are pre-taught prior to them taking their test.

Rule 239 of the Highway Code says 'Do not park facing against the traffic flow'. Instructing a candidate to pull up on the right, reverse for two car lengths and park the vehicle before starting off and re-joining the flow of traffic may cause some confusion.  If this change is adopted the Highway Code may need to be amended accordingly.

(4) Conduct one of the two 'Show me, tell me' questions during the on-road part of the test.  Currently, both questions, which test knowledge, and the safe use, of different elements of the vehicle, are asked before the on-road element of the test - RoSPA supports the proposal as it will save valuable time during the test which can then be used to allow more practical driving assessment.  It is also important that candidates can demonstrate that they can use the in-car safety features whilst driving.  It is inevitable that at some point whilst driving it will be necessary, for example, to clean the windscreen so using the 'show me' question to demonstrate how you would clean the screen using the washers and wipers during the practical drive is an ideal opportunity to test whether the candidate can do this in live traffic conditions.

Further measures - if necessary - RoSPA Road Safety Manager says: "If implemented, it is essential that the impact of these measures is closely monitored and if it is shown that the risks that young drivers face has not diminished significantly then further measures should be introduced."

These include:

.  A minimum learning period of one year so learners gain more driving experience during their learning period.  As most learners take many months to pass their test, this would not impose much additional burden on learner drivers.

.  A mandatory Learner Driver Logbook in which the learner records how much and what type of driving they have undertaken.  It would act as a record of driving experience, help structure the learning to reflect the learning to drive syllabus, allow learners to measure their progress and ensure that they gain experience in a wide range of situations.

.  The learning period should include, where possible, both professional lessons and private practice with a parent or friend.  More should be done to encourage and make it easier for learners to take private practice to support their professional lessons, Parents need more guidance on helping their children as they learn to drive, and to understand that the example thye themselves set as drivers is a significant influence on their children's driving attitudes and behaviour.