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Driving Test Changes – New Changes to the practical test 2017

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All you need to know about the new changes to the DVSA practical test – starting in December 2017 and what effect it will have on driving lessons and the learner driver.

The driving test is changing to make it more realistic and assess the changes and challenges in driving on the UK roads today.

Will passing your driving test look any different in 2017?

Will passing your driving test look any different in 2017?

This is a long-awaited change to the driving test. The DVSA have been trialling the changes since August 2015. So why has it taken so long and will it make the drivers of tomorrow safer? I’m not sure, I will give you my full opinion later in the post but for now, let’s just say that it’s a long time coming and have a look at the changes that will take effect in December. If you have a driving test before 4th December 2017, then you will still have the old style test, so these changes won’t affect you. However, it is a good idea to read the information below and ask your instructor to train you more for post-test driving using the points below.

The four changes to the DVSA driving test:

The DVSA have made four changes to the driving test. These are good changes aimed at improving the ability of new drivers. These changes are:

1 – The independent driving part of the test will be extended from 10 minutes to last 20 minutes

The independent driving part of the test was first introduced in October 2010. The reason for this was that the biggest challenge for new drivers after passing their driving test, is learning how to make decisions; such as choosing what lane to be in, processing road signs and markings, taking in new information and dealing with distractions. It was made apparent that the DVSA has to assess these to ensure the candidate can cope with the modern-day post-test challenges. To do this they devised a way to test the candidate’s ability to drive unsupervised and to make decisions in unfamiliar situations without guidance – The Independent driving section of the driving test was born!

The changes in 2010 as outlined above was a great “wake-up call” to lots of driving instructors who just “instruct” people to drive. I saw a huge change in the way instructors conducted their driving lessons and started to think about what skills the new drivers would need. This was also backed up with the National standards for driving and riding training syllabus, developed by the DVSA in August 2013. Overall I see this a massive positive in terms of having better-skilled drivers on the road who can assess, scan and plan their journeys. This was the end of the old saying “you learn to drive when you pass your test” as all instructors (some already did) had to then teach people how to drive post-test!

So how does the new change to the Independent driving affect a learner and why has it changed?

The independent drive has basically changed to 20 minutes, double the current time of 10 minutes and around half the time of the overall test (38-40 minutes). This will make sure learners are of a higher skill level as they now have to concentrate, scan, plan and assess the situations for longer independently. You may be thinking that performing a skill for longer isn’t much of an issue? But when we train driving instructors, the driving test is longer from 40 minutes to 60 minutes. Just this simple change means that the standard of the driving has to be more consistent, and of a higher standard and is a lot harder for them to achieve (not to mention the other criteria and fewer faults allowed). So in making the independent drive longer in duration, the DVSA is increasing the standard that a Learner driver has to reach in order to pass the driving test. This point has been missed in the reporting of the changes. It will in some situations mean that the learner driver who struggles with concentrating will need more lessons to be able to perform at the level required, independently for 20 minutes. Also, the fact that they drive for longer will mean that the test routes will be changed, more challenging situations can be encountered on the route (also the reason for removal of some manoeuvres – see below). This, in theory, should increase the level of skill that a learner driver has when they pass the driving test. This can only be a good positive for road safety. 

In the independent drive, you may also be asked to follow the directions from a sat nav (see below).

2 – The learner driver will have to follow directions from a Sat Nav. Well, 4 out of 5 will!

In the Independent drive, a learner would be asked to follow directions from a Sat Nav, provided by the DVSA and the examiner will have it with them set-up ready to use. However, one in five tests will use road signs for the independent driving (you can assume this is in case a sat-nav breaks and they don’t have to have spares so they will then use signs to continue. Also it saves costs in having spares etc.). You will still be able to ask the examiner where you’re going if you’re not sure and it won’t matter if you go the wrong way unless you make a fault while doing it. However, having experience on this topic from observing and having feedback from lots of tests, the examiner won’t want to help you and will try to  get you to work it out yourself by answering your questions with responses such as “it’s your driving test, just do what you think is correct” or “I’m here to assess your driving ability, I can’t help you with that, just do what you think is best”. In defence of the driving examiners, they will help you if they think it’s a genuine question, but lots of learners just don’t want to do it so ask all the time, leading the examiners to try to get the learner driver to help themselves.

The introduction of the sat nav will make it harder for the learner to scan, plan and drive safely! It also provides a massive distraction to the driver, making the learner driver watch the sat nav, work out the diagram/map it’s showing, listen to the directions, while at the same time they may be thinking about developing situations. All in all, it will stretch the average learner driver. It will also provide the driving instructor who is training the learner driver a great opportunity to link the distraction of using a sat nav to that of a mobile phone. This can be a great tool in bringing the extra hazards of post-test driving to reality in a controlled pre-test environment.

This should have been introduced earlier as we currently have a huge problem with the modern day distractions while driving.

3. The reversing manoeuvres will be changed and some not tested anymore.

You will still be required to perform one reversing manoeuvre on your driving test, however, you will not have to perform a reverse around the corner or turn in the road manoeuvre. This is good in a way! Hardly anyone uses the reverse around a corner manoeuvre post-test and if they do it’s nothing like what is taught. The Turn in the road manoeuvre is used post test and is also a great learning tool when teaching control, coordination, reversing and observation. The DVSA still want driving instructors to teach these manoeuvres. I can see lots not bothering to teach the reverse around a corner manoeuvre, especially when learners are putting on the pressure to pass their driving test in as little time as possible and for as cheap as possible.

Another by-product of removing the turn in the road and reverse left manoeuvre is that DVSA are getting more time to assess on-the-road driving. This will be because finding and getting to an area to practice the now old manoeuvres takes time out of the driving test. They can often be only found in quieter housing estates and away from the more challenging roads.

One last positive for lots of the public will be less driving school cars practising the left reverse. Quite often in test centres, you have notices for instructors not to practice left reverses on certain roads as lots of complaints are received from residents who own the houses on the corners that are used to practice or are on test routes. The removal of the testing of the manoeuvre will lead to fewer people practising it, fewer complaints and a better standard of living for those unfortunate people who live in the houses on the corners.

The manoeuvres you may be asked to perform will include:

  • parallel park at the side of the road –No change
  • park in a bay  – Changed
  • pull up on the right-hand side of the road – New

Bay parking manoeuvre Changes:

The Bay parking manoeuvre will be changed so you will either be asked to drive in and reverse out or reverse in and driving out of a bay. This will be better as lots of people post-test, drive into a bay and are not aware of the extra dangers or hazards in reversing out of the bay, especially if you have a large high sided vehicle next to you!

New – Pull up on the right manoeuvre.

Pull up on the right-hand side of the road is a new Manoeuvre. You will have to pull-up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for 2 car lengths and then rejoin the traffic. This part is one of the most controversial parts of the new test. As the Highway code Rule 239 states “…wherever possible. If you have to stop on the roadside: do not park facing against the traffic flow”. So in teaching people to pull up on the right hand side of the road, it may be seen that we are not only encouraging the new generation of drivers to pull up on the wrong side of the road, but then also saying “you can in a test” and giving them the impression that it is ok! It’s also much more dangerous a situation, to set off from the wrong side of the road. The last time the DVSA (then DSA) changed a test with as many people worried about it, it caused chaos and crashes when they changed the motorbike test in 2009. Let’s hope it doesn’t cause crashes or danger. This is a cause of concern for me and lots of other instructors.

4. You will be asked to answer a vehicle safety question while you’re driving.

This change won’t worry most people. But it will cause more nerves on the test. Often, as a driving instructor, I’m asked will the examiner ask me any questions while I’m driving? When we used to say no, the relief on the learner’s face was huge. Now they will be worrying about when the examiner will ask them a question and “what if I can’t remember”. When people are nervous they often worry about things they wouldn’t normally. This will lead to more nerves on a test. We normally call these “Show me, tell me questions”.

Will asking a question on the move make a difference?

It will allow the learner to demonstrate to the examiner that they can operate the controls and judge when it is safe to do so. Overall it won’t make a massive difference as most controls will be adjusted by the driver on a lesson at some point. It will also allow the driving instructor to have more conversations about distractions, taking their eyes off the road and planning when to use the controls more. So this could be a good idea.

The changes will be in the show me questions, you will now be asked one of the following show me questions:

  1. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you wash and clean the rear windscreen?
  2. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you wash and clean the front windscreen?
  3. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d switch on your dipped headlights?
  4. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d set the rear demister?
  5. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d operate the horn?
  6. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d demist the front windscreen?
  7. When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d open and close the side window?

For a full list of the questions click: Show me tell me questions from December 2017

*** SEE our updated 2019 Show me tell me questions and Answers here ***

The Official DVSA change to the driving test video:

Our thoughts about the changes to the driving test in December 2017

Overall the changes are a good idea. They have been implemented to help prepare the learner driver with the changing demand in post-test driving. This can only be a good thing.

The changes will have an impact on learner drivers as they will have to learn new skills, improve their scanning and planning and think more about their actions and timing of their actions they are performing as a driver.

The Driving instructor will have more chance to teach more relevant skills and try to get the learner drivers to understand the risks involved with post-test driving. This hopefully will create a better, more skilled and understanding driver who can deal with the distractions in modern driving.

The driving instructor ADI part 2 (driving ability) test, currently will not have the changes replicated. This will mean that it’s different from the learner driver test. This is a mistake in my opinion.

What are your thoughts? Please comment below:

Chris RichardsDriving Test Changes – New Changes to the practical test 2017
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