As more and more of us have taken to the roads over the years – the number of cars on the road rose by nearly 600,000 in one year, from 25.2 million in the last three months of 2014 to 25.8 million in the equivalent period of 2015...
The standards required of new drivers have risen incrementally. It’s one of the reasons Britain’s roads are among the safest in Europe, but as a country we can’t rest on our laurels.
The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is responsible for overseeing driver testing and issuing licences. Its job is to make sure the driving test is fit for purpose, so in 2016 it announced proposals to make changes to the practical part of the test.
The new test is not necessarily supposed to be harder than it is at the moment - just more realistic and relevant for today’s driver.
DVSA Chief Driving Examiner, Lesley Young, explains: “Candidates will be given more responsibil-ity 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.”
So what are they proposing?
Following satellite navigation - there’s a lot more to distract your attention while you’re at the wheel than there used to be, including touchscreen infotainment systems and the like. At the mo-ment, the driving test explicitly bans the use of sat-navs. But 52% of drivers use one, so to reflect modern driving you will be tested on your ability to safely follow a route planned into a sat-nav.
More independent driving - at the moment, the test includes 10 minutes of independent driving. Increasing this to 20 minutes will expose more drivers to high-speed roads. Most fatal accidents occur on high-speed roads (not counting motorways), so this will better test your ability to handle a car on a fast-flowing route.
Replacing two manoeuvres - the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road’ (commonly called the three-point turn) will be replaced with more realistic scenarios, like reversing into (or out of) a parking bay.
Conducting a vehicle safety check on the move - one of the two ‘show me, tell me’ questions will be asked while you’re driving. This could be asking you to turn on the windscreen wipers, or to switch on the heated rear windscreen.
When are the changes to the driving test coming into effect?
The DVSA ran a public consultation until August 2016 on its proposed changes. As of January 2017, it hasn’t yet announced which (if not all) of the proposed changes will be introduced, or when.
How can I prepare for the new driving test?
The changes to the test aren’t a ploy to extract extra money from you with repeated tests - they’re designed to make you a better driver. Often, this means having more experience.
You can cram in extra experience before your test with Admiral’s Learner Driver Insurance. This covers you to drive a relative or friend’s car, without affecting their insurance should you have a prang.
It’s significantly cheaper than forking out for extra lessons - a week’s cover has a flat rate price of £40, which is less than the cost of two hours’ tuition with many instructors. Opting for 30 days’ cover starts at just £68.10, making it even more cost-effective.
It’s also a great way to get extra experience driving at times or in conditions that aren’t possible with your driving instructor - such as late at night - and with a sat-nav. You can also use it to get extra experience on faster countryside roads if you’re used to driving in the city, or vice versa.
If you find you’re starting to feel more confident in the car you’re practising in, you can opt to use it instead of your instructor’s car for the test itself. Just take along the temporary insurance certificate when you get there, and take the owner along to drive you home if you pass - the cover stops the moment you pass your test.
You can read more about using your own car for your driving test here.