Road Safety News

Driving test ‘fit for modern driving and roads’ comes into effect

Monday 4th December 2017

The much anticipated new look practical driving test, which includes a longer independent driving section and requires candidates to follow a satnav, comes into effect today (4 Dec).

First announced by the DVSA in April 2017, the modernised test is designed to ensure learner drivers ‘face a more realistic assessment of their driving ability’, and help them ‘prepare them for a lifetime of safe driving’.

The new test has received the backing of road safety stakeholders, including Road Safety GB, whose chair Sonya Hurt says the changes make the test fit for the 21st Century.

However, the launch of the new test could be marred by industrial action by driving examiners who are set to strike on 4 and 5 December in a dispute about working conditions. The Public and Commercial Services Union says around 2,000 examiners are set to strike which will cause 'large-scale cancellations of tests'.

In the new test learner drivers will drive for around 30 minutes, and will be expected to: 

  • Drive independently for around 20 minutes (an increase from the current 10 mins) while following directions from a sat nav or a series of traffic signs
  • Do one of the following three reversing manoeuvres: parallel park at the side of the road, park in a bay (either driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out), or pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for two car lengths and rejoin the traffic
  • Answer a vehicle safety question while driving - for example, showing how to wash the windscreen using the car controls and wipers. 

Lesley Young, DVSA chief driving examiner, said: “DVSA is committed to helping drivers through a lifetime of safe driving.

“The new test will help prepare new drivers for driving on modern roads and support a reduction in the number of young people killed and seriously injured on our roads.

“We’ll continue to explore opportunities to further develop driver training and testing to make sure the driving test reflects real-life driving.”

Sonya Hurt, chair of Road Safety GB, said: "We fully support the changes that have been introduced in the new practical driving test, which we believe will provide a more realistic assessment of a candidate’s ability to drive without supervision.

“Modern vehicles feature an increasing array of driver assist technology, and as such it is sensible and realistic to test the candidate’s ability to use a sat nav system.

"We also welcome the fact that the new regime will allow test candidates more time on the rural road network, where the consequences of inexperience can be particularly devastating.

“We are looking forward to the roll-out of a driving test designed for the 21st Century.”  

The changes are part of work set out in the DVSA’s five-year strategy for 2017 to 2022, titled, ‘Helping you stay safe on Britain’s roads’.

Earlier this year, the Government also announced that from 2018 learner drivers will be allowed to take motorway driving lessons with an approved driving instructor.

Category: Driver training.



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An extremely disappointing response from RSGB. I heartily agree with Nigel Albright.
Andrew Fraser STIRLING

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

Hugh, I know of no research that could help answer your question, but my feeling is that it is a bit of both with a tendency towards young male drivers having their recklessness, rather than inexperience, as a primary cause.

Whatever the reasons behind their crashes, there is lots of evidence to suggest that many of those successful at test do not warrant being put in a position of trust whereby they are allowed to drive alone and gain experience. Your point about attitude is well made.

Nigel makes a very good point about 'Safe Driving For Life' - it is nothing of the sort, and the DSA ought to rethink its position.

I know that many of the young drivers in my county, which is predominantly rural roads, are poorly prepared for those roads. There is far too much emphasis spent on driving around the test routes, and that isn't where they experience much threat to their lives. We are failing generation after generation of young drivers, but now that autonomous vehicles are 'just around the corner' where will the strength to change the system come from?
David, Suffolk

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

David: if a high percentage of newly qualified drivers do crash soon after passing their test, is this because they are driving reasonably carefully but don't yet have the experience to avoid someone else's mistake, or has it been proven that it is solely the reckless actions of the new drivers that are the root cause in every case.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

Perhaps new drivers should have to take an attitude test before any sort of aptitude test, to check they have the maturity and are psychologically ready to accept the responsibility of driving. I'm sure instructors and examiners must sometimes get a bad feeling about a learner who is perhaps over-confident and impatiently straining at the leash to be let loose on their own, once they have passed the inconvenience of
a driving test.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

Agreed, David, but the really worrying thing, to my mind, is that instead of setting standards to work up to (which they should be as the government agency for a basic driving standard) they are increasingly working towards the lowest common denominator; that being what the average driver expects to do. And we know that the average driver, if spot tested for the standard driving test (even given it’s current level) would fail. So where does that leave things in relation to the DVLA banner, Safe Driving for Life’? – except on a slippery downward slope. In that case it seems that safety comes somewhere down the list instead of being at the top of it.

Tied in with this you have the fact that previously ADIs were graded 1-6 and I am led to believe that only around 7% achieved the top grade. HMG apparently said, ‘This is not good and needs improving’. So what does the DVLA do? They re-grade to A, B or C and now, apparently, some 45% of ADIs are in the top category. Given that the driving of many ADIs is pretty awful, and often below that of the standard driving test, it’s pretty awful which ever way you look at it.

I would really expect organisations such as RSGB to firmly put their head above the parapet on this one but, it seems it is more concerned about not being out of step with what the government and it’s agency is looking for in numbers.

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

The fact that such a high percentage of those successful at test go on to have a serious crash early in their driving careers proves without question that the DSA test is not fit for purpose. It wasn't fit for purpose before this tweak, and it will not be afterwards.

Radical systemic overhaul is the only possible way, not the endless tweaking of an outdated, useless test.
David, Suffolk

Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

Such a pity to see another road safety organisation condoning the falling standards of the DVLA.

Agree (8) | Disagree (5)

I wonder how well the test will measure interaction with vulnerable road users.

Will it include overtaking cyclists?
Will it include driving in pedestrian heavy streets?
Will it include sections where 20mph limits and zones help to protect pedestrians and cyclists?
Will it measure how drivers drive over speed bumps?
Rod King, Warrington, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (7) | Disagree (15)