27 July 2016

Hooray! Driving tests could soon finally reflect real life

Have you ever heard someone say that learning to pass a driving test isn’t really the same as learning to drive out there in the real world? I can definitely recall people saying things like that when I learnt to drive in 2004 and I can’t forget failing my first driving test because of something I thought was rather daft at the time – not applying the handbrake and waiting for more than a few seconds before pulling out of a junction onto a completely empty urban road with excellent visibility.

Anyway, back to the present day and can you think of the last time you reversed around a corner? Similarly, I reckon it’s fair to assume that you’ve used some kind of sat nav at least once during the last month, whether it was portable like a TomTom, a system built into your car’s dashboard or even an app like Google Maps – right?

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Driving tests have been pretty ‘wooden’ and formal for as long as people can remember, so it’s brilliant to learn that trials by the government over the last year or so have been successful and now look like they will be rolled out, making the driving test reflect real life at long last. After all, who drives in silence? Most people drive with the radio, a CD or streamed music playing. And modern life is all about being able to expertly and safely squeeze your car into that last remaining parking space, or find your way to a new destination on roads with hardly any signs.

“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”, said Edmund King, president of the AA.

Driving on your own without an instructor, examiner or adult by your side is very different and the organisations behind tuition and testing have finally had a lightbulb moment. From early next year, this is how the new driving tests will probably look like:

  • The current 10 minutes’ independent driving following verbal directions given by the examiner will be replaced with 20 minutes’ free driving following a sat nav, with the radio on to prove that the driver is capable of driving with common distractions
  • Manoeuvres like reversing around a corner will be ditched and replaced by common real-life scenarios many young drivers will find themselves in, like reversing into and back out of a space in a supermarket car park, which can all be quite scary for new drivers if they’ve not practiced these kinds of manoeuvres much before
  • Faster rural A-roads and busy junctions will also likely form part of the new driving test, as many newly qualified drivers will experience such conditions soon after passing their tests, so need to be prepared and confident
  • Candidates will be asked, whilst driving, to answer basic safety and general questions and to demonstrate that they’re familiar with the car’s primary controls, such as switching headlights or the rear screen heater on
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With car crashes responsible for over 25% of deaths amongst 15-to-19-year-olds, the majority of fatal accidents happening on fast country roads and over 50% of drivers in England now using a sat nav, these changes do sound sensible – or does the sat nav change just show that we’re becoming lazy and losing the important skill of being able to navigate using a good, old-fashioned map?

Let Carrot know on Twitter or Facebook what you think of these changes that will almost certainly be made to the driving test in 2017 along with motorway driving included in lessons. They shakeup plans are still in a ‘consultation’ phase so you can also even let the DVSA know what you think by completing their online survey.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.