Proposed changes to the driving test for cars

At a recent conference held by the motoring schools Association on Saturday 12th March 2016, Leslie Young, the Chief Examiner of the DVSA spoke about the proposed review to the driving test in the UK.

The reason for the review is due to the continued high rate of accidents with new drivers who have held a full driving license for one year or less. It is widely known that the higher risk of accidents among young drivers is due to their age; their lesser ability to assess risk and anticipate changing situations due to inexperience; social and peer pressure plus the possibility that learned behaviours, attitudes and opinions passed down and shared by family, friends and other social circles could impact a young drivers thought processes and reactions in a safety critical situation.

Research (BAUGHAN ET AL) shows that once miles driven and a drivers age and driving experience are controlled the likelihood of being involved in an accident within the first six months of driving is linked to the number of driving errors committed when taking the driving test. Further research by Sexton and Grayson in 2010 indicates that someone who passes the driving test first time is safer than someone who has several attempts.

New proposals for the driving test

The new proposed driving test which is being trialled by approximately 4400 learner drivers is intended to cover a much wider variety of roads and traffic conditions which encompasses and reflects more real life driving situations.

The proposed changes to the driving test include:

  1. A 20 minutes section where the student follows directions using a sat-nav or road signs.
  2. A tell me question at the beginning of the test and a show me question whilst on the move.
  3. One manoeuvre from the following – pulling up on the right hand side of the road, reverse back and then move off safely negotiating the oncoming flow of traffic; reversing back into a parking bay or parallel reverse parking behind another part car or driving forwards into a parking by and then reversed out again.

Student examiner and instructor feedback from trials so far suggest the new test is more appropriate to preparing students for driving independently and safely post test.

Student feedback reveals that the oral and visual directions provided by satellite navigation is easier and more relaxing to follow compared to receiving directions from the examiner. With regards to the manoeuvres students think removing the turn in the road from the driving test would be a mistake because it is likely to be used as part of every day driving; other suggested changes to the manoeuvres detailed above were excepted as a positive way forward because they were more relevant to modern day driving and would be more widely used after passing the driving test. Interestingly student feedback shows that it was the ‘show me’ question asked on the move that caused the most nerves because they didn’t know when the question would be asked.

Feedback from examiners indicates that test candidates using satellite navigation have a great all round awareness and I find it easier to cope with the pressure of taking the test and are better prepared to drive independently.

Preliminary findings from trialling the new proposed driving test show that in comparison with the existing driving test there is no difference in students levels of confidence after passing the test and it won’t take any longer to learn to achieve a standard to pass. Also there was not much difference in the pass rate; the present driving test has a pass rate of 53% where trials of the new test for the same period had an average pass rate of 52.2%.

There will be a consultation on 23 March and it is proposed that examiner training starts in October 2016 with a view to implementing the new driving test in March 2017. Leslie Young said these changes would be implemented if the trials show a positive effect on Road safety.

The development of the driving theory test

Leslie Young also stated at the MSA conference that the driving theory test had changed to include Computer generated imagery on the hazard perception video part of the test allowing dangerous situations which could not be recorded safely to be simulated. These videos use original film with extra hazards added. Future plans for the development of the theory test include more clips depicting vulnerable road users, level crossings , night time and adverse weather conditions.

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