Learner drivers will have to show they can safely use a satnav during their tests as part of an overhaul of the exam, the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has announced.
From 4 December, learner drivers will spend about 20 minutes being guided by the dashboard device as examiners gauge whether they are competent to be given full licences.
The DVSA said the changes had been prompted by research that showed more than half of Britain’s drivers now used a satnav. Making it part of the examination would mean drivers were better prepared for life on the road.
It is the first major change to driving tests since 1996, when written theory papers were introduced.
A spokesperson for the DVSA said: “Using a satnav goes some way to addressing concerns that inexperienced drivers are easily distracted, which is one of the main causes of crashes. We’re moving with technology and the technology that new drivers will be using.”
The DVSA trialled the new tests with 4,500 learner drivers at 32 test centres across the UK earlier this year.
Candidates will also be tested on driving into a bay in a public car park and reversing out again or pulling up on a roadside, reversing a short distance, then rejoining traffic. These manoeuvres will replace the three-point turn or reversing round a corner. The length of independent driving will be doubled to 20 minutes.
However, plans to make motorway driving part of the new test have not been introduced.
The transport minister Andrew Jones said the measures would help save lives. “We have some of the safest roads in the world but we are always looking to make them safe,” he said. “These changes 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.”
The RAC’s director, Steve Gooding, said the new test would mean candidates would “undergo a far more realistic assessment of their readiness to take to the road unsupervised”, adding: “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 satnav systems.
“Novice drivers need to demonstrate the right skills and driving style to cope with the new environment.”
The AA’s president, Edmund King, believes the new test would produce better drivers. “We know that new drivers are a higher risk on the roads, therefore we need to better prepare them for real-world driving,” he said. “These changes will test drivers in a more realistic manner which is essential to improving their safety once their L-plates are removed.”