Just over a year ago, the DVSA announced that the driving test in England and Wales would undergo a series of historical changes. Drivers sitting their test would now have to get to grips with following directions from a sat-nav during the independent driving portion of the test, as well as answering one vehicle safety question whilst driving. The reverse around a corner and three-point turn maneuvers were removed and replaced with parking on the right and reversing out of a parking space. But is the driving test safer as a result – and can we learn anything from driving tests around the world? We’ve teamed up with Motorparks, retailers of used Volvo to investigate.
Initial Reaction to the new test
Speaking to the press just after the changes were proposed, Gareth Llewellyn, Chief DVSA Executive, 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.”
The changes had further backing from Britain’s Transport Minister, Andrew Jones. He stated: “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.”
The British public also had their say on the new test. Ahead of the changes being put into place, a public consultation involving more than 3,900 people occurred. During the consultation, 88.2 per cent were behind the move to increase the independent driving part of the examination. 78.6 per cent were in favour of the adjustments to the reversing manoeuvres, 78.4 per cent backed the introduction of a show me question while someone sitting a driving test was behind the wheel, and 70.8 per cent gave a thumbs up to candidates having to follow directions from a sat nav.
Now that the changes have been implemented though, how are people reacting? In their Driving test changes in 2017: impact summary report, the DVSA recorded that 81.2 per cent of new drivers believed the driving test now prepared them for driving on Great Britain’s roads.
According to the report, 86.3 percent of newly qualified drivers also use a sat-nav when driving. 86.2 per cent felt confident that they can drive safely while following directions provided to them via one of these gadgets.
Driving tests in the future
If any further changes are to be made to the UK driving test, perhaps we could take some inspiration from other driving tests across the world. Here’s three ideas…
1. Help for anxious drivers
According to a major report by the University of Cambridge which was published in the medical journal Brain and Behavior, over eight million people across the UK suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder.
Taking a driving test can obviously be a stressful time, with chief driving examiner Lesley Young offering these words of advice to The Sunday Times’ Driving segment: “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.”
Nervous candidates in the Netherlands have extra help. Driving test candidates across that country can request a faalangstexamen — an examination that is carried out by an examiner who is trained specifically to deal with those sitting a test who feel very nervous.
2. Checking under the car
Drivers taking their test in South Africa could potentially fail before even getting into the car. This is because one reason for failure is a driver forgetting to check under their car for any leaks. A motorist in the south-east London district of Chislehurst certainly could have benefitted from carrying out this procedure, after The Express reported that the driver was fined more than £1,000 for damage after their car leaked oil when it was parked up.
Oil isn’t the only thing that can leak from your car. Motorists should also be regularly checking that their set of wheels isn’t leaking antifreeze, fuel, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, windscreen washer fluid or water.
3. After dark driving practice
Most of us will have to drive in the dark at some point or another. However, road casualty statistics reported on by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reveal that 40 per cent of collisions will be recorded during the hours of darkness.
After dark driving lessons are compulsory in Sweden. 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.
4. Driving electric
Drivers all over the UK have been getting to grips with learning to drive in an electric car. In 2012, a student from Hull became the first UK leaner to pass their test in the Vauxhall Ampera. Since then, electric vehicles have been a popular choice for learners – particularly those sitting the automatic test. The UK has seen a boom in new EV registrations over the past decade, as well as an increase in related services such as EV charger installation and charging points. As electric car use continues to grow in the UK, we can expect an increased number of electric vehicle specific driving schools too.