New driving test hopes to make roads safer

Greater emphasis is to be placed on learner motorists’ ability to drive without direction from the examiner under proposed changes to the driving test which aim to improve road safety.

The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is currently consulting on new measures that mark the most significant revision of the test for 20 years. Among these is a plan to increase the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes.

This, the DVSA says, will allow a more comprehensive assessment to be made of a candidate’s ability to navigate realistic traffic conditions safely. It would also encourage more preparation to be given to driving independently during lessons.

DVSA chief driving examiner Lesley Young said: “Candidates will be given more responsibility for making decisions during the test. We want them to show they can cope with distractions and assess risk without the intervention of their instructor or examiner.”

The changes to the test are aimed at reducing the number of young people being killed in collisions. Other measures being consulted on include a requirement for candidates to follow directions from a satellite navigation device during the independent driving section of the test.

The new test would also replace the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road’ manoeuvres with more real life scenarios, such as driving into and reversing out of a parking bay.

DVSA is working with the Transport Research Laboratory to trial the changes with 4500 learner drivers and 850 driving instructors across Great Britain. The trial is due to complete later this year and a full report on the findings will be published.

Motorist groups have largely welcomed the proposed alterations to the test. “Independent driving and sat nav use will make new drivers think more for themselves and not just learn by rote,” commented IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research Neil Greig.

But he added: “Any changes should only go ahead if the current trials prove successful. We shall be looking at the evaluation of the pilot very carefully to ensure safety is not

affected.”

AA president Edmund King said: “We know that new drivers are a higher risk on the roads, therefore we need to better prepare them for real world driving. These changes will test drivers in a more realistic manner which is essential to improving their safety once their L plates are removed.”