IAM calls for mandatory rural road testing

12.43 | 23 January 2012 | | 5 comments

The IAM has renewed its call on the Government to make driving on rural A-roads a mandatory part of the driving test.

According to the IAM research, 82% of rural fatal and serious casualties occur on single carriageway roads compared with 18% on motorways and dual carriageways.

The IAM says that while good instructors understand that experience on a wide variety of roads in different conditions gives young people the best chance of survival, too many merely educate up to the existing test standard.

A recent report from the IAM titled, ‘The fast and the curious’, found that new drivers felt unprepared for real life scenarios and would welcome extra help.

The IAM has written to Mike Penning, road safety minister, outlining its views on how the Government should tackle deaths and accidents of young drivers. This starts with improving the driving test to include training on the UK’s most dangerous roads: single-carriageway rural A-roads, says the IAM.

Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: “More than half the cars on our roads are rated as four or the maximum five stars in European safety tests, and the figure is even higher for new cars. Our roads are also getting safer in their design.

“But the roads where drivers, especially young drivers, are most frequently killed and injured are still not consistently part of the driving test. The minister recently announced young drivers would be allowed to use motorways when accompanied by an instructor, but it is single carriageway A-roads where the real problem lies.

“Driver and rider error is a contributory factor in two thirds of accidents. We can only improve our cars and roads so far. The challenge now is to improve the humans that drive them, to continue our outstanding record of road safety.”

For more information contact the IAM press office on 020 8996 9777.


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    I agree with the comments above, however that are other things that need to be looked at. Take parents’ / pupils’ views on learning to drive and testing. All too often parents and pupils only want enough lessons to get them ‘through the test’. For example, I and other ADIs I know have lost pupils because we want them to have two hour lessons to get out in the country for some rural road training, (I work in East London). Accusations of ‘ripping us off’ and parents saying how they only had 10-12 hours or less, when they learnt are common. I’ve had parents ring me simply for the use of my car on test and will not have their son or daughter assessed before the test, because that will cost money. One father even started shouting abuse down the phone as I tried to explain I would not let anyone take my car for test, unless I assessed them first. He said he had taught his son to drive and was more than capable of taking the test and I was just trying to get money out of them.

    Also when pupils start to practise with their parents or partners, the work an ADI has done, starts to get undone. Block gear changing tends to be one of the first things that the ADI has taught ‘wrong’. Even after explaining to them and showing the Driving Essential skills book, parents and partners are sceptical. Pupils exceeding the speed limit on their next lesson because their Dad said they are holding everyone up behind them. Sitting in 1st gear with no handbrake, (even though the lights had just turned red) because ‘it takes too long to get ready’ is another one. Getting into the highest gear asap to save fuel, even though you have already explained on previous lessons that changing up on approach to a hazard is not correct. The list goes on.

    Jackie Willis’ suggestion about accompanying drivers having an assessment before going out with learners is a good idea. Though I’m not sure we will see a government put that in place.

    Ultimately the problem with driving is perception. Everyone does it, it looks easy and people only hear of the road injury or death in their local area. Only something like the M5 crash makes national news generally, so driving is perceived safer than it is. Plus once people can drive, they forget how difficult it was to learn to drive. Even traffic Police I have helped train to be ADIs were surprised at the attitude of drivers towards a driving school car.

    Bob Craven makes the point of taking pupils out in busy times, dusk, etc. Well, I do, and some of the abuse I have had over the years from drivers, because we are ‘holding them up’ as they drive to work or home from work, or as they drive for work. Oh, and when I say we are holding them up, I’m not talking about driving slowly or stalling, I’m talking about obeying the speed limit but they don’t want to. Canning Town flyover in East London is a 3 lane dual carriageway with a 30mph limit. Try going over that in a driving school car at 30mph. It’s not fun for the learners, but I take them there so they are aware of the 30mph limit and how to deal with the bad driving of others. Any wonder new drivers start to develop bad habits once they have passed and are out on their own.

    Andrew Cahill ADI, East London
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    Two things need to happen first before attempting further improvements in learner driver testing:
    1. Entry qualifications for new driving instructors needs to be raised to include a teaching qualification, and the training of instructors needs to be greatly improved. This whole system sends a message that anybody can become a driving instructor and, when teaching, a ‘one size fits all’ approach is all that is needed. Few ADIs understand the concept of coaching (client-centred learning), learning styles or teaching learners who have specific learning needs such as dyslexia.

    2. The public perception of driving instructors needs to be raised (hence the need for point 1 above) and this can only happen if learner drivers are required by law to take lessons with an ADI. Learners need private practice, and so accompanying drivers should be required to undergo a driving assessment, with an ADI, and then be issued with a time-limited accompanying driver certificate, to be displayed in their car window. As now, however, the law should make clear that such certified accompanying drivers are not allowed to charge learner drivers or pass themselves off as driving instructors.

    Only then should the test itself be looked at, but that may become totally unnecessary if instructor training is dramatically improved.

    Jackie Willis Cert.Ed. Dip.DI Norwich
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    I agree with Dave, as with motorway tuition put forward a few weeks ago by the IAM again. It would be of benefit for learners or newbies to undertake some driving tuition on rural and country roads. Whilst most accidents occur where there is the greatest concentration of traffic it is usually of a minor nature due mainly to lower speeds, however at higher speeds in a country road more substantial injuries , even death are the result. I would also say that twv would benefit also from similar considerations of training.

    One can make the argument, however, that because test centres are in towns and all instructors know the testing routes, then the requirements needed to pass on these routes mean that they do no more than is necessary to assist their trainee to pass that test. That is, I believe, an understandable concept.

    It could be also argued that trainees should also be out in the dark and at dusk and drive with other commuters during the school runs and to and from work. In winter conditions, cold snow and icy roads and in the wet and dry and in fog, let’s not forget fog.

    I wonder then what organisation can do all this? The poor normal driving instructor can’t and it’s unlikely that every scenario above would or could be covered prior to the test. So look at doing it after test.

    So why not invoke some legislation for subsequent training in all these conditions, say call it an “Advanced Newbie Level” and let the voluntary sector take it on, such as IAM or RoSPA.

    I have no doubt that they would like to see any syllabus agreed at Ministry level and involve themselves in it……. possibly with a discount agreed with some insurances as does already happen.

    bob craven Lancs
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    It seems that the question being asked here is: Is our system of driver training and testing fit for purpose?

    The IAM are suggesting it is not. The casualty data would appear to support this point of veiw, certainly with respect to rural roads and young drivers. However would covering this aspect of driving for a few minutes on a test really make a big difference? Is what we really need a shift to training and assessment over a longer period of time covering a wider range of driving conditions and situations?

    Dave, Leeds
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    I agree with this idea – when the Wolverhampton Test Centre was moved in 2010 the new location was too far from any rural roads and my opinion was many learners would now not get taught on rural roads as it was no longer a requirement for the test. The coverage of rural roads was poor even before the test centre was moved because there wasn’t a lot of rural roads covered at the previous test centre.

    Another pupil of mine who took his test at the Lower Gornal test centre last year had to emerge onto a 60mph single carriageway – fantastic for testing his observation skills but something no test candidate will be tested on at the Wolverhampton centre now, and I suspect, at other test centres throughout the country.

    However, this idea has practical problems since some test centres are too far from rural roads to incorporate this aspect of driving into the test. Would the length of the test need to be changed (which would be a good idea) or would the DSA have to go through the expense of relocating test centres?

    The lack of rural road driving, and indeed much of the syllabus, in learner driver training was one of the reasons the Pass Plus course was introduced. However, since this was a voluntary scheme after people had gained their licence which did not lead to substantial insurance discounts the idea has not been successful.

    In a similar vein, when the pratical test was changed in 1999 and the emergency stop ratio dropped from every test to 1 in 3 the training that learners get relating to the emergency stop has reduced dramatically.

    In order for the syllabus to be covered by all instructors effectively and learners to receive training when they are after something (their full licence) all aspects of the syllabus must be assessed on every driving test.

    Therefore, to meet this requirement the practical test would need to be longer in length. Even if this ideal situation did materialise my concern is that people choose their driving style (consciously or unconsciously) once they’re through the driving test and training regimes, styles of teaching (e.g. instructing or coaching) and the test structure have little impact on the types of factors that lead to how people drive in what Professor Stradling would refer to as the expressive phase of driving.

    Dr James Whalen, ADI, Wolverhampton
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