A new practical driving test will be introduced next week – but what are the big differences, and how can you best prepare?
From Monday 4 December, anyone taking their driving test will have to complete more manoeuvres in order to pass, including reversing out of a bay parking space.
We asked IAM Roadsmart, the UK’s leading road safety charity, how the new test will change and what it will mean for learner drivers.
They said: “We have helped to design and evaluate the new elements of the test, and we are very excited about the road safety benefits it could deliver. Our key aim was to ensure the test reflects the real world as much as possible and also encourages learners to gain experience of as wide a range of traffic situations as possible.”
So, what’s new?
20 minutes of independent driving
Increasing the time spent driving autonomously from 10 minutes to 20 minutes will mean more preparation for those at the wheel to encounter real-life situations. Doubling the time spent on this aspect of the test will ensure that drivers able to handle hazards that may occur on the roads, and will guarantee to examiners that learners are confident while driving independently.
Following directions from a satnav
This brings the test into 2017. While in days gone by a driver would take instruction from their passenger reading an A to Z, it’s now more common to take direction from a satnav. This adaption to the test recognises this change.
It is important to remember, however, that you will be able to ask your examiner for confirmation of your route, and crucially, they cannot fail you if you take a wrong turn, as long as you are driving safely.
IAM Roadsmart said: “By doubling the independent driving element of the test and introducing a satnav for an unknown route, new drivers will have to practice more. A common criticism of the old test was that it always used the same well-known routes which L drivers could learn!”
Changes to manoeuvres
There have been a few crucial changes made to the manoeuvres that you may be expected to demonstrate during your test. A few are staying from the current test, while some are being added.
Parking in a bay - reversing in and driving out
This is an existing manoeuvre which is not going anywhere, and is arguably the safest way in which to park in a bay. When reversing into a space, you are ensuring that you can drive out safely and can observe the situation around you.
For example, if you were to park in a busy supermarket car park, reversing in and driving out would make it easier to assess oncoming traffic and pedestrians, giving you a better view of the condition of the road around you.
A difficult but important exercise, learning how to parallel park is crucial for the navigation of parking on busy streets, and examines your observation and mirror control.
Being quite a technical and structured manoeuvre, it has the tendency to catch some out, but remains relevant and important to 2017 drivers and is therefore staying where it is.
Parking in a bay – driving in and reversing out
After a major analysis of the previous driving test, it was concluded that it should assess “a candidate’s ability to manage the risks of real life driving”.
Driving into a bay and reversing out is a common practice amongst drivers, so it is understandable that the government have chosen to include it in the test and ensure that it will be carried out correctly and safely.
Pulling up on the right-hand side of the road, reversing for two car lengths and rejoining the traffic
This is a controversial addition the driving test, with some arguing that it is dangerous to attempt to park against the flow of traffic.
However, similarly to driving into a bay, it is a manoeuvre that many often undertake in their everyday driving, and it is therefore wise that it should be examined on and taught properly.
This will assess your capacity for observation, mirror use and awareness of parking restrictions. It is important to remember that although your examiner will make sure that it is safe to park on that particular road, when reversing you should ensure you don’t come to a halt in a restricted area, such as in front of a driveway.
The IAM said: “The new reversing manoeuvres replace the three-point turn which no one ever used, and dealing with a bay is much more like everyday parking.”
It is important to remember that your examiner will choose which manoeuvre you demonstrate at their own discretion, so they should all be well-practiced and perfected before you undertake your practical test.
Answering a vehicle safety question
There’s more to driving than simply being able to manually handle a vehicle; it is important that you are safe in your execution, too. In this addition to the practical test, your examiner will ask you a vehicle safety question while you’re driving.
This will ascertain if you're confident in the way that your vehicle operates and are able to multitask.
The IAM said: “Asking questions whilst driving can help the learner to multi task and deal with passengers. New drivers with relevant skills and more experience can only be good news for road safety.”
So, will the changes produce better drivers?
The changes to the practical driving test have been undertaken after a wide public consultation, aiming to produce safer and more experienced drivers.
AA president Edmund King has welcomed the changes, and believes that the new test “reflects real world driving conditions and will produce safer drivers.”
He continued: “The longer period of independent driving, use of sat navs and more typical parking manoeuvres will challenge new drivers and should mean those passing the test will have more confidence when driving solo.”