If your children or grandchildren are learning to drive – or indeed, if you're learning later in life – you might be interested in the proposed revisions to the driving test.
The driving test doesn’t address demands on today’s driver
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is rightly concerned that the current driving test doesn’t accurately reflect the changing demands on the driver.
Road traffic accidents are responsible for a quarter of all deaths of young people aged between 15 and 19 years of age. It's worth noting that the vast majority of driving tests are taken by 17-19 year olds, so the question is whether the current driving test is doing enough to ensure their safety, once they're allowed out on the road without supervision.
Although the total number of road collision fatalities and serious injuries sustained by drivers and passengers in the UK in 2013 was less than half that of 2000, the number of young people being killed is falling at a much slower rate.
They are also twice as likely to die or be seriously injured in a car accident as any other age group.
These are the worrying statistics that prompted the DVSA to take action.
The DVSA’s Chief Executive, Gareth Llewellyn, said: “Great Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world. But there’s still more that we can do to keep road users safe - particularly newly qualified drivers.
Making sure that the test better assesses a driver’s ability to drive safely and independently is part of our strategy to help every driver through a lifetime of safe driving.
A revision of the driving test
So the DVSA is trialing a revised driving test; the changes being considered are:
• To increase the ‘independent driving’ element of the driving test from 10 to 20 minutes
• To ask candidates to follow directions from a sat-nav during that part of the test
• To replace traditional driving manoeuvres like reversing around a corner with scenarios that better reflect real life like driving into and then reversing out of a parking bay, or parking on the right-hand side of the road and then pulling away
• To ask one of the two vehicle safety questions while the candidate is actually driving, testing their ability to multi-task. These questions might include more practical elements such as turning on the rear screen demister or the headlights.
DVSA Chief Driving Examiner, Lesley Young, 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.”
A common sense move
With drivers increasingly relying on high-technology safety and convenience features, testing their ability to use them safely seems like a common-sense move.
As Kirsty Quartley, the UK Product Manager for Garmin, puts it: “Sat navs form a part of modern day driving so it makes a lot of sense to educate new drivers about how to use a sat nav in a safe and responsible manner.
“It’s important that learner drivers develop good habits early on and we can’t think of a better environment than in situ with a qualified driving instructor at hand.”
Interestingly, in December 2016 Transport Minister Andrew Jones announced plans that would allow learner drivers to drive on motorways with their instructor using a dual-controlled car in lessons taken prior to their test.
Currently someone can pass their test and immediately drive for the first time on a motorways unsupervised, so this move would help to equip new drivers with the skills they need in the real world of motoring.
Whether this will be incorporated into the driving test changes remains to be seen.
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