Changes to the driving test, designed to reflect the realities of modern motoring, will come into effect this December.
New elements of the assessment include using a satellite navigation system, answering safety questions while driving, and a lengthened “independent driving” demonstration. Manoeuvres such as ‘reverse around a corner’ will be replaced with more modern challenges, such as driving into and reversing out of a parking space.
There will also be a “reduction in focus” on quiet, low-speed, low-risk roads, such as those currently used for test routes, and an increased emphasis on higher-risk roads – where new drivers are most likely to crash.
“These changes announced today will help reduce the number of people killed or injured on our roads, and equip new drivers with the skills they need to use our roads safely,” said Transport Minister Andrew Jones.
“Ensuring the driving test is relevant in the 21st Century – for example, the introduction of sat navs – will go a long way towards doing this.”
With built-in sat navs becoming commonplace in all parts of the new car market, and with around half of all drivers having one, their inclusion in the driving test is almost overdue. A consultation in 2016 found that 70 per cent of respondents supported this change.
Another change designed to tackle “distraction” is the addition of a safety question while the car is in motion. The example given in today’s official announcement is asking the candidate to activate the heated rear windscreen while driving – perhaps not the most demanding of tasks, but certainly a step towards addressing the complexities of real-world driving. Previously, these “show-me-tell-me” questions were asked when the car was parked.
The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has trialled these changes with more than 860 driving instructors, plus more than 4,300 of their students, with “positive” feedback from the trial.
“We are very supportive of the revisions DVSA is making to the practical driving test, which will mean candidates undergo a far more realistic assessment of their readiness to take to the road unsupervised,” said Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation.
“Much has changed since the first driving test was taken in 1935, and it must be right that the test evolves, just as the cars we drive are themselves changing to incorporate ever more driver assist technology such as inbuilt sat nav systems. Novice drivers need to demonstrate the right skills and driving style to cope with the new environment.”
“Clearly driving examiners and instructors both need time to adjust to the new test, in particular to ensure that candidates are well-prepared, nevertheless it is good to know that the new test will be running by the end of this calendar year.”
The changes come into effect on 4 December, 2017. The pass requirements will remain the same, meaning that you’ll fail the test if you make 16 or more minor faults, or one serious or dangerous one.
You'll also need to take a brief eyesight check. David Williams thinks we should take a second look at that part of the test – find out why here.