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Improving the driving test - what are the differences?
Last year, the government asked the DVSA to trial changes to the driving test because it wanted new drivers to be prepared for driving on their own and not just to pass the driving test.
Let's look at what the current test involves. It lasts between 35 - 40 minutes long. It involves,
- ‘Show me’ and ‘tell me’ question at the beginning of the test - so 2 questions in total.
- 10 minutes independent driving using traffic signs or verbal directions. The examiner will explain that the independent driving section is to begin, and will either give you a series of directions, or show you one or more diagrams. It is not a test of memory, and it is okay if you need to ask the examiner for clarification or a reminder if you forget the directions given.
- One of the following manoeuvres - turn in the road, reverse around a corner or reverse parking (either into a parking bay, or parallel parking at the side of the road)
- One in three candidates will be asked to perform the emergency stop.
The new test plans to involve the following,
- ‘Tell me’ question at the beginning of the test and a ‘show me’ question on the move
- 20 minutes independent driving using a satnav or traffic signs
- One of the following manoeuvres - drive in to and reverse out of a parking bay, pull up on the right, reverse, and rejoin the traffic or reverse parking (either into a parking bay, or parallel parking at the side of the road)
Two new manoeuvres will, for the purpose of the trial, replace the current ‘turn in the road’ and ‘left reverse’ manoeuvres. I will still be teaching these, though as I think the skills needed to do them is important...slow car control and proper observation.
Let's look at these differences in more detail.
Independent driving and using sat navs
This is a variation on what is done on the driving test at the moment. The independent section will be increased in length from 10 to 20 minutes long. It is hoped that using a sat nav goes someway to addressing concerns that inexperienced drivers are easily distracted, which is one of the main causes of crashes.
The examiner will attach a satnav to the windscreen which will be pre-programmed with the independent route. The sat nav will provide visual and verbal directions. If the candidate takes the wrong route, the sat nav will recalculate and redirect them back onto the programmed route. The examiner may also interrupt and give advice to candidate get back onto the correct route. If you do go wrong, there's no need to worry, just deal with it, and you shouldn't get marked with a fault.
What if there are problems with the sat nav?
Please don't worry about this. The driving examiner will step in to take control if the satnav fails or freezes. They can then go back to giving directions in the same way as they do now.
It's important to remember that the examiner is there to help you if required. For example, it may be that there are two junctions are close together on route. The satnav should be able to deal with this, but, if there is any doubt, the examiner will give bridging directions so that you can plan your drive properly.
Speed reading on the sat nav
The candidate should only use the speedometer reading fitted to the vehicle because the sat nav might give a slightly different reading. The examiner will only use the car speedometer reading.
Sat navs will make the driving test better!
The important thing for you to bear in mind here is that the use of the sat nav will, in my opinion, be easier for you because you won't have to remember a set of directions. You will also have had adequate training in the use of a satnav during your training with me, including how to programme, how to deal with it re-routing, and how to over-rule it if required, so you will be confident and have the necessary skills to deal with this not only on your driving test, but when you own one yourself.
‘Show me’ safety question on the move
A ‘tell me’ safety question will still be asked at the start of the test before the candidate moves off, which is no different to the current driving test.
The difference will be that the examiner will ask you a ‘show me’ safety question whilst you are driving. The examiner will ask you to use a control when they think it's safe for you to do so. The important thing for you to remember is to only operate the control when YOU think it's safe and doesn't put you in danger. So, you wouldn't want to be fiddling with the de-mister switch whilst you were on a roundabout or merging onto a dual carriageway, or other similar moves that require your full attention.
There are 5 questions at the moment that have been confirmed, and these are:
- When it is safe to do so can you show me how you operate the rear windscreen wiper (or clean the back window)
- When it is safe to do so can you show me how you wash and clean the front windscreen.
- When it is safe to do so can you show me how you would switch on your side lights.
- When it is safe to do so can you show me how you would set the rear demister.
- When it is safe to do so can you show me how you would demist the front windscreen.
I'm sure you'll agree with me that it's a good idea to get practice at using these controls whilst driving, because it's exactly what you'll need to do when you're out driving by yourself. I'll make sure that we go through the 'show me' questions, AND get you to practice them on the move during your driving lessons with me. That way, it won't present you with any problems on your driving test.
It is generally believed that slow speed manoeuvres such as the turn in the road or left reverse, don’t lead to serious road traffic collisions because they are usually carried out in non-busy roads. The DVSA hope that by removing manoeuvres that need us to use backstreets, they can design test routes that are more open and take in faster and rural driving. They want to use roads that represent real-life driving conditions.
Pull up on the right
Apparently, this manoeuvre is done more commonly that turn-in-road and left-reverse in real life. It tests the skills that people will need, particularly for those who go on to be professional drivers, eg delivery drivers. The exercise is perfectly legal. It’s challenging and is the kind of manoeuvre a driver may do at some point after passing their driving test.
The examiner will be asking candidates to pull up on the opposite side of the road, and then reverse for a couple of car lengths before moving off.
At the moment, this isn't something that I get my students to practice. However, rest assured, we WILL be practicing it so that you are very familiar with it, and are able to choose your own safe place to do so, so that it won't present any problems for you on test.
Forward parking in a bay
You will be asked to drive forward into a parking bay, and then reverse back out of it. This will probably be a bay with cars parked on either side. Driving forward into a parking bay and then reversing out is the sort of thing most drivers do on a regular basis. It’s a perfectly legal exercise to do, and you will definitely want to be able to do so once you've passed your driving test.
It is hoped that the DVSA will be able to use public car parks to do this, eg hotels, pubs and other types of locations. I already include this in my current driving lessons so you will already be confident in carrying out this manoeuvre.
The following link is useful viewing as it also contains videos on the manoeuvres.