In a bid to reduce the number of road collisions and improve road safety, the UK driving test is set to undergo the most drastic changes to its requirements since its conception.
The Government has indicated that the 2017 changes will not only help better reflect modern driving, but will also allow examiners to gain an improved understanding of a candidate’s ability to drive independently. David Clark, Young Drivers Specialist at Road Safety GB, told us that the latest changes, similarly to past additions, will be built-in “to help new drivers be aware of and be able to deal with all sorts of issues that they will face when driving unaccompanied.”
What are the key changes?
Although relatively drastic – compared to past additions – the four changes won’t fundamentally change the layout of the test, rather build on existing themes.
The independent driving section of the test, which was first introduced in 2010, will increase from 10 to 20 minutes.
Clark mentions that this part is “a very positive inclusion in the driving test,” in that it “allows the examiner to see what the driver would really do on their own.” He continues by emphasising that “extending this section of the practical test can only be a positive development.”
Following a sat-nav
Candidates will now be expected to follow sat-nav directions during the independent driving section.
With sat-navs a common sight in the majority of vehicles (52%1), and at times criticised for being an unnecessary distraction, Clark indicates that “their inclusion in a driving test opens the door for driving instructors to train drivers on their correct and safe use and positioning in the car.”
Manoeuvres such as ‘reversing around a corner’ and ‘turning in the road’ will be replaced by ones used more often in real-life scenarios, such as driving into and reversing out of a parking bay.
Show me, tell me en-route
Candidates will now have to answer one of the two vehicle safety questions, commonly referred to as ‘show me, tell me questions,’ while driving. Although the number of questions hasn’t changed, these were previously asked before the candidate got behind the wheel.
Will the changes benefit learner drivers?
At present, road traffic collisions are the main cause of death for people aged 15-191, with a quarter of all deaths in this age group coming as a direct result of collisions. In view of the fact that the majority of these occur on high-speed roads, the additions will not only ensure that drivers are better trained to navigate these types of road, but that examining this ability is a crucial part of the practical test.
Although most of the changes are welcomed by motorists and government bodies alike, Clark highlights that “some additions have been criticised as encouraging drivers to do things that are known to not to be best practice. Notably, driving into and then reversing out of a parking bay and stopping on the right hand side of the road and then pulling away again across the flow of the traffic.”
However, while neither can be considered best practice, these are manoeuvres that, at one point or another, drivers may have to carry out. Clark indicates that “by having new drivers both trained and tested on them, they will at least understand the dangers that they’ll face when taking these actions. It will be up to the instructors to point out that these are not best practice and should be avoided whenever possible.”
It’s clear to see that the changes reflect the ever-evolving face of UK roads and that these are a step in the right direction, in terms of preparing people who are learning to drive to cope with driving on modern roads. This statement is echoed by Clark, who suggests that “making the test more in line with what motorists are known to do post-test should be a positive move”.
While it’s hoped that the updates will help contribute to a significant reduction in the number of young people being fatally injured as a result of road traffic collisions, “only time, and robust study and evaluation of future drivers will show if these changes have been positive or not.”
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