Changes to the driving test: stakeholder reaction

12.00 | 15 April 2017 | | 2 comments

News of changes to the driving test, which will come into force in December of this year, has been met with unanimous support from stakeholders.

Announced by the DVSA today (13 April), the new driving test will see four key changes:

  • An increase in the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes
  • Asking candidates to follow directions on a sat nav as an alternative to following road signs
  • Replacing current manoeuvres such as ‘reverse around a corner’ with more real life scenarios, such as driving into and reversing out of a parking bay
  • Asking one of the two vehicle safety questions while the candidate is driving; for example, asking candidates to use the rear heated screen

The DVSA says the modernised test will make sure want-to-be drivers have the skills, knowledge and confidence to drive on their own.

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Stakeholder reaction

Road Safety GB has welcomed the inclusion of more test time on rural roads, where many young drivers are particularly vulnerable.

Iain Temperton, Road Safety GB director of communications, said: "Road Safety GB fully supports the enhancements to the practical test. Our road environment is constantly changing and we need to ensure that the next generation of drivers is ready to cope with it.

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

The RAC Foundation says the revisions to the practical driving test will mean candidates ‘undergo a far more realistic assessment of their readiness to take to the road unsupervised’.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “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 Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), who led trialling of the proposed changes, has also welcomed the announcement. The country-wide controlled study look at their impact on how people learn to drive, and on how people drive post-test.

Shaun Helman, head of transport psychology at TRL, said: “Being able to assess the proposed changes in a scientifically controlled trial meant TRL was able to provide a robust and statistically valid analysis to the DVSA when they were considering which elements to introduce to the new driving test. Coupled with the detailed feedback of participants, this has clearly had a significant impact on the roll-out of a 21st century driving test.”  

The use of sat nav devices within the test has been welcomed by Disabled Motoring UK because it will help disabled drivers learn how to safety use these systems.

Graham Footer, CEO of Disabled Motoring UK, said: “Many disabled drivers use sat-nav systems on a regular basis to help them drive independently and the changes being brought in will make sure that they know how to use these systems safely.

“They will also ensure that all drivers are better equipped to drive on a wider variety of roads, and carry out an updated set of manoeuvres that are part of everybody’s day to day driving.

“The revised practical driving test will make Britain’s roads safer, and raise the overall standard of driving, therefore it is something that Disabled Motoring UK fully supports.”   

The changes have also been welcomed by the National Associations Strategic Partnership (NASP).

Lynne Barrie, NASP chair, said: “NASP welcomes the changes to the practical driving test and believes the key to safer drivers is better training and preparation.

“Improving the driving test will give new drivers the skills needed for everyday driving. This will help to prepare new drivers for a safer driving career and hopefully help to reduce road casualties.”



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    As the representative body of road safety professionals, Road Safety GB does not generate public facing campaigns or calls to action, however we regularly meet with representatives of DfT, DVSA and DVLA and others in numerous forums to discuss these issues. It is fair to say that many issues do not have an overwhelming consensus of view from our membership, but we continuously discuss and explore best practice and evidence led options for future legislation.

    Sonya Hurt, Chair, Road Safety GB
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    It is understandable that RSGB supports these changes to the DSA practical test, as they represent an attempt to improve the efficacy of the test. What surprises me is that you then don’t go on to suggest what really needs to be done to make new drivers safer. While I accept that the test standard will never be as high as I might wish, and that it it represents a level at which one is OK to be unsupervised while continuing the process of becoming a safer driver, why not build on that and introduce stepped licences? There has been a long ‘experiment’ with P plates in various places, so why don’t we have them? There are so many things that RSGB could be pushing for.

    David, Suffolk
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