Road Safety News

Proposed driving test changes are designed to ‘improve road safety’

Friday 15th July 2016

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has launched a public consultation on its plans to improve the car driving test.

The proposed changes are designed to make the driving test a ‘better assessment of the candidate’s ability to drive independently in modern driving conditions’.

The changes include increasing the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes, and asking candidates to follow directions from a sat nav.

The ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road’ manoeuvres will be replaced with more ‘real-life’ scenarios such as driving into and reversing out of a parking bay.

In addition, one of the two vehicle safety questions (known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions) will be asked while the candidate is driving.

The DVSA says the changes are intended to ‘make sure that training and the driving test reduce the number of young people being killed in collisions’.

The Agency says most fatal collisions happen on high-speed roads (not including motorways), and changing the format of the test will allow more of these roads to be included in driving test routes.

DVSA is working with the Transport Research Laboratory in a trial involving more than 4,500 learner drivers and 850 driving instructors at 32 locations across Great Britain. The trial is due to end later in 2016, and a full report on the findings will then be published.

Lesley Young, DVSA chief driving examiner, added: “Candidates will be given more responsibility for making decisions during the test. We want them to show they can cope with distractions and assess risk without the intervention of their instructor or examiner.”

The DVSA says the RAC, IAM RoadSmart, RoSPA, the AA and the Driving Instructors Association (DIA) all support the changes.

Carly Brookfield, CEO of the DIA, said: “We are compelled by the evidence we have seen to date from the trial to recommend that these long overdue developments are made to a driving test - which has been fundamentally unchanged for over 20 years and has not kept pace with how our roads and driver behaviour has developed over time.”

Edmund King OBE, AA president, said: “We know that 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.”

The public consultation will run until 25 August 2016.


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I trust everyone with even a passing interest in road safety has commented on the proposal of drive in, reverse out of parking bays. Dangerous, unnecessary. dare I say downright stupid. Perform such a manoeuvre in my yard, I shall suspend your parking privileges, do it in one of my vehicles and I shall revoke your in-house permit to drive.
steve, watford

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Two points - the figures in the Highway Code for stopping distances are incorrect, as thinking time is longer than suggested. This means that stopping distances are not far from what is printed and whilst there are older cars (without ABS etc) the figures should not be changed.

Hugh, you appear to know little about driving instruction and testing. The candidate has to show they can drive up to the speed limit, if safe. Of course the limit is the maximum, not a target but on an open clear dual carriageway, for example, they must show they can a) drive up to the limit and b) actually know what the limit is. So they are likely to fail for doing 50 on a 70 road if it is safe to do so. In the incident I referred to, the driver was prosecuted for dangerous driving, due to the fact they sweved and slowed to 10mph on a motorway.
Andy, Warwick

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Can I ask where is the evidence that cars can stop faster? I and I am sure many others within the profession do not know of any reliable trails that have been taken since the 1960s when the HC came out with its figures. Add to that the fact that motor vehicles have massively increased in their numbers and that magnifies the increase in danger posed by present driving on our roads. Further add to the mix that in the HC it only gives 2/3rds of a second as reaction time.

If due to close following a driver is unaware of what has or is transpiring in front then that 2/3rds of a second may not exist or maybe, eventually, suspecting something is amiss ahead, a delay may occur before the realisation that one should brake. Could be a simple distarction as stated before. This delay may mean another second or two before reaction times comes in to play. At 70 mph one is travelling at 105ft per second so that second or maybe 2 seconds may mean a further 210ft travelled before any action is put in place to actually stop a vehicle.
R.Craven Blackpool

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Please see my other comment on the Chris Grayling subject, 10,000 is actually an opaque generalised figure but even then is a tiny percent when put up against the total population and even the number of registered vehicles on the road. As a country we are doing quite well and draconian measures I fear would / do have the opposite effect than that intended.
Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.

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> without constant finger wagging or constant threat of prosecution which has unintended consequences for the actual safety of our roads.

I shall quote a pledge. from "Project EDWARD":

> • Ensuring I am not distracted by anything inside or outside the car, or inside my head.

I'll leave it to the fellow commenters' imaginations as to what I am implying.

Hugh, cars can stop quicker thus we can drive closer together, right? I'm still surprised that motorway driving isn't part of the syllabus. A mandatory scheme similar to Pass Plus, perhaps?
David Weston, Corby

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Despite the improved car technology Steve, there's still approx. 10,000 accidents on the UK roads everyday. If 'the most basic of cars sold today will stop in a much, much shorter distance than that stated' why are they still hitting things and people? They can stop quicker, but they can reach higher speeds much quicker as well and the average driver can't cope with it, so they need regulating - better still, educate them at the outset, which is where a more rigorous driving test could be the answer.
Hugh Jones

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The fact remains that the laws were made a very long time ago and car technology has improved markedly. The stopping distance in the highway code is a case in point, even the most basic of cars sold today will stop in a much, much shorter distance than that stated. This is not reflected in the rhetoric, in fact the opposite. The fact remains that today the roads are much, much safer given the rise in traffic journeys miles completed vs casualties. Attitudes harden against constant misinformation and go slow messages when the evidence is to the contrary. This is not a good thing and needs addressing but through truthfulness, honesty and allowing people to travel around at a reasonable pace without constant finger wagging or constant threat of prosecution which has unintended consequences for the actual safety of our roads.
Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.

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Perhaps driving instructors and examiners should be reminded that the speed limit is a limit and not an instruction or a target and not driving at, or near, the limit is not a sign of incompetency or a weakness.

It's an attitude that seems to be common amongst some of the general motoring public, but I am dismayed if instructors and examiners have been encouraged to take this view. If you read the link to the DFt page, it emphasises their concern over young, recently qualified drivers being involved in accidents - possibly they've been getting the wrong messages as learners.
Hugh Jones

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I have to disagree with Hugh about the too slow issue. You should be fit and able to do the appropriate speed for the road and conditions. This is why for example slow and wide loads get escorts to warn of the danger. There are far too many people especially out on rural A roads where 40mph is their default speed be that on a 30mph or National speed limit road. The test will not affect these people because the vast majority of the time they are 50+ years old. The fact they are not adjusting their speed is a demonstration they are either incapable or lack the due care and attention required for the task and they are very unlikely to get pulled over or caught by a camera due to where they are driving and the slow speed.
Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.

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I think the test will become even more realistic if the Sat Nav is programmed to deliver "off road" & "make a U turn if at all possible". Seriously!
Gareth, Surrey

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> Once a driver passes their practical driving test they enter the 'expressive phase', (thank you Ian Edwards), which means in its simplest form that they will do what they want to. It is no good saying, “don’t do that it’s dangerous”, because when you’re not there they will do whatever they want to.


Not to give an excuse to bad driving, but, new drivers are new drivers. They're inexperienced, they haven't experienced the things that we have. I know people will go around a "sharp" corner at about 50mph because their car can take it - that's all that matters, right?!?

Saying that, I'd probably be classed as a young driver - 23 years young, 5 years driving experience, and I can definitely say I'm experiencing ever more and more ways people can be stupid.

One of the regular posters on a motoring law forum I frequent posted (paraphrased, sorry!) something that you folks might agree with - I certainly agree with it:

> As vehicle handling improves, the amount of grip available improves. Thus, when the grip does give way, the result will be a tad more grim.

We don't get taught vehicle handling, vehicle dynamics - we just get taught to pass a test.
David Weston, Corby

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I can understand driving unnaturally slowly on a test due to nerves on the day, but I would imagine this would show up in other ways as well and not merit a fail just on that one point. Is 'driving too slowly' a fail point per se anyway? If so, it's completely the wrong message. If it was the candidate's 'normal' style of driving, why would their instructor put them in for the test at all, or at least mention it, especially if it's so 'dangerous'. I have met a few speeders who had recently passed their test which I found disappointing and wondered how such bad habits ahd crept in so soon, but now I understand, if that's how they are being taught and eventually examined. I've also encountered one or two speeding driving instructors as well!

By the way, driving too slowly is not an offence per se, so Andy's heresay incident must have been something else.
Hugh Jones

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Anyone who has studied safe driving would have to agree with most of what Nigel has stated here. But are we missing something?

Once a driver passes their practical driving test they enter the 'expressive phase', (thank you Ian Edwards), which means in its simplest form that they will do what they want to. It is no good saying, “don’t do that it’s dangerous”, because when you’re not there they will do whatever they want to.

So are DVSA getting smart here by making instructors look at the things that cause problems post-test and getting them to train new drivers how to do these things as safely as possible?

Good instructors will tell their pupils that, “this is not a good idea but occasionally you will find yourself needing to back out no matter how well you try to plan things and this is why you are tested on it.”

As for failing for driving too slow, of course they should. If it is safe to drive at the speed limit then driving significantly slower frustrates other drivers who are trying to make reasonable progress.

In my experience as an ADI I have found that driving examiners know exactly what they are doing and I generally have no criticism of them.
David Clark, North Yorkshire

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Hugh, the examiners are regularly assessed and yes, you can fail for going too slowly or too quickly - both can be dangerous. Only last week I read of a woman who had been prosecuted for driving too slowly.
Andy, Warwick

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I don't know how much truth there is in this, but I have heard of test failures based on 'not driving fast enough' or possibly it was 'driving too slow' - perhaps we should also be re-examining the examiners and what should constitute a pass standard.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Until we link the driving test to some further education/responsibility gateway then little changes to the on-road test will result in little change to outcomes.
Peter, Liverpool

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Looking briefly, the text parts of this are just another nail in the coffin of falling standards by DVSA. Take parking bays. It is fundamental that you don't reverse out of them, primarily because the owness is on the driver to ensure it is clear and safe before emerging from a parking bay and, in the majority of instances that cannot be accomplished by reversing out of the bay - and particularly in the winter time when windows are often misted over. It is therefore a fundamental that one always comes out forward. Coming out of driveways is another instances (In HC it is DO NOT). In parking bays there is the argument about having the back to an open area makes it easier for loading, but safety should always come before convenience in my book. Of course then you have drivers turning around by nosing into a side road and reversing out into a more major road. It's all part of the same mind-set. Why does the DVSA so often seems to working towards the lowest common denominator and seems to be encouraging, even tacitly, the same?

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