Driving in the 21st century

Blog post posted on 21/04/17 |

If you didn’t know the Practical Driving test is changing on December 4th 2017.

The intention is to make the driving test similar to “real life”. I am sure most of you have heard people say: “you learn to drive after passing your test”.  These changes will make the test more realistic to the candidate demonstrating that they are ready to face driving in today’s modern driving conditions.

So what’s changing?

In comes………..

  • 20 minutes of independent driving following a Sat Nav
  • Driving in and reversing out of a parking bay
  • Parking on the right
  • Candidates will need to show the examiner that they can perform certain “show me” questions while driving i.e. using the windscreen wipers, opening the windows

Increasing the independent driving element will allow examiners to assess the candidate’s ability to manage distractions and drive safely on higher-risk roads where statistically, new drivers have the most crashes.

Out goes………..

  • Reversing around the corner
  • Turn in the road (three point turn to some of you)

Sat Navs are now used by the majority of drivers and whilst useful. If you have used one I am sure you agree that they can be a massive distraction –“turn left now” I have sometimes thought do you really mean now? And In 300 yards turn… some people would struggle to judge this.

Introducing using these in the driving test all helps the examiner to assess if the candidate has the ability to manage this distraction safely.

The ability to use certain controls while driving can potentially take your eyes of the road – so all a positive a step to ensure drivers can manage distractions i.e. fumbling for fog lights or opening the window whilst driving.

Parking on the right on a busy road can have some challenges with oncoming traffic including then moving away.

The new driving test means there will be less time driving around the back streets during driving tests looking for a suitable place to carry out a manoeuvre.

I can only speak for the Cardiff area, but currently many driving tests in Cardiff do not allow the candidate to go above 30 mph. The new test will allow time to get onto open and rural roads meaning that examiners can test a more realistic drive in situations where new drivers are more likely to crash.

As an experienced driving instructor, I have spent several hours with some learner drivers practicing reversing around a corner, all taking time away from developing the forward drive.  If people are going to drive into the supermarket bay frontwards so they can get their shopping in the boot and reverse out it makes sense that people are taught this skill, so that they are aware of how to carry out the manoeuvre safely.

The new driving test will encourage driving instructors to teach certain skills, rather than just practice certain manoeuvres and test routes, all helping to better prepare the new driver to manage distractions and drive independently.

These changes will help to make the driving test more realistic to the challenges of modern driving. This all assists to better prepare the learner driver to be able to drive on their own in that critical period after passing their test. This is all in a concerted effort to help reduce the number of people killed or injured on our roads making our roads even safer.

Some residents should be delighted as examiners won’t be using residential areas for reversing around a corner and the turn in the roads, so consequently I am sure Driving Instructors will not be on these roads as much.

If you are a qualified driver or rider reading this - look out – as I am sure you will notice an increase in learner drivers in car parks and driving on faster roads.

I believe these changes are a positive move to raise standards and improve the chances of newly qualified drivers remaining safe once they pass their driving test.

To read the full details of the new test click here.

Sarah Fisk, IAM RoadSmart’s DDR training and driver education manager