How the UK reacted to driving test changes and how they compare to other countries

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When the government made changes to the UK’s driving test in December 2017, there were countless debates on whether it was the right thing to do. Over a year later, those conversations are still taking place among instructors and learners.

The changes made covered a range of different areas. This included learning more about different reversing manoeuvres, answering safety questions while driving, independent driving for 20 minutes and following the directions of a sat-nav.

But what does all this mean? Join us as we analyse the changes made, the reaction to them and what the future could hold for those wanting to pass their driving test.

An insight to the changes

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DSVA) made four core changes to the driving test on December 4th, 2017. This was rolled out across England, Scotland and Wales, with the government stating that it had been “designed to make sure new drivers have the skills they’ll need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving”.

The first change that came into practice was the independent driving section. Although this was already in place with a ten-minute slot, it had been extended to 20 minutes. From now on, those carrying out their driving test would need to show ‘adequate driving’ without any turn-by-turn directions from their examiner.

During independent driving, learners will now be asked to follow the directions of a sat-nav; this is provided and set up by the examiner. However, it must be highlighted that learners won’t fail if they go the wrong way (a new route will be calculated by the sat-nav) — only if they have made a fault.

If you are sitting your test, you’ll be able to ask the examiner for confirmation on the end destination.

As well as this, there has also been a change in reversing manoeuvres. Learners are no longer tested on reversing around a corner or making a turn in the road. However, they will be tested on the following:

  1. Parallel park at the side of the road.
  2. Park in a bay, which will go one of two ways and be selected by the examiner:
  3. Drive in and then reverse out of a bay.
  4. Reverse in and then drive out of a bay.
  5. Pull up on the right-hand side of the road, before reversing for two car lengths and then rejoining the traffic.

As well as this, the examiner will ask a learner two vehicle safety questions during their examination. This will include a ‘tell me’ question at the start, where a learner will need to explain how they would carry out a safety task. Following this will be a ‘show me’ question, which means a learner will have to demonstrate what is being asked.

How did the UK react?

When the changes had been made, the Chief Executive of the DVSA, Gareth Llewellyn, commented: “DVSA’s priority is to help you through a lifetime of safe driving. Making sure the driving test better assesses a driver’s ability to drive safely and independently is part of our strategy to help you stay safe on Britain’s roads.

“It’s vital that the driving test keeps up to date with new vehicle technology and the areas where new drivers face the greatest risk once they’ve passed their test.”

As well as this, the UK’s Transport Minister, Andrew Jones, commented: “Our roads are among the safest in the world. However, road collisions are the biggest killer of young people. These changes will help us to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads and equip new drivers with the skill they need to use our roads safely.”

A lot of people were behind the changes when they were initially announced. In a survey of more than 3,900 people, 88.2% said they were in favour of the move to increase independent learning during the test. As well as this, 78.6% supported the changes to manoeuvres and 78.4% liked the ‘show me’ question. Undoubtedly the biggest change, the introduction of the sat-nav, gained support of 70.8%.

The impact summary report by the DVSA in 2017 found that 86.3% of drivers now use a sat-nav at least some of the time when they’re driving. 86.2% feel confident that they can drive safely when following the directions!

What does the future hold?

We never know what the future holds and there could always be future changes to the driving tests across the country. The DVSA could take some inspiration from the following practices which are already in place in countries across the world…

1.    Examiners trained to help nervous candidates

Did you know that there are over eight million people across the UK who suffer from anxiety disorder? This was verified in a report from the University of Cambridge.

But how does this relate to driving? Well, a lot of people do find driving tests to be stressful. Chief Driving Examiner, Lesley Young, commented to The Sunday Times: “It’s normal to be nervous before your test, but if you’re properly prepared and your instructor thinks you’re ready, then there’s really no reason to worry. Your examiner’s not trying to catch you out; they just want to make sure that you can drive safely.”

The Netherlands is one country that is taking a positive approach to this matter. Learners can now request a ‘faalangstexamen’, which is an examination carried out by someone who is specialised in dealing with people who become extremely nervous.

2.    Checking for car leaks

Believe it or not, learners in South Africa can fail their test before they enter the vehicle. Why? Because it’s a requirement to check under the car for any leaks — more so when driving in used cars.

A motorist from Chislehurst, in South-East London, may have benefited from this because The Express found that the driver was fined more than £1,000 after oil leaked on the ground when it was parked.

Oil isn’t the only liquid that can leak from vehicles though. Drivers should be checking their cars aren’t leaking antifreeze, fuel, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power sterling fluid, windscreen washer fluid or water.

3.    Night-time driving sessions

It will come as no surprise that 40% of collisions will be recorded during the hours of darkness, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

To counteract this, learners in Sweden must learn how to drive in the dark as night-time driving sessions are compulsory. Even if they pass their driving test during the summer, many motorists in this part of Scandinavia will seek out a driving school throughout the winter months to undergo a night-driving course.

If you’re preparing to sit an examination soon though, we wish you the best of luck!