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The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has put forward several amendments to the test, which it hopes will not only better prepare learners to drive on today’s roads but also improve road safety.
The roads are certainly dangerous. There were 1,775 road deaths in 2014, a 4% increase on the previous year.
The number of people who were seriously injured also went up, by 5% to 22,807.
The roads are particularly dangerous for young people. Road collisions are the biggest killer of those aged between 15 and 19, accounting for more than a quarter of all deaths.
The DVSA wants to see a drop in the number of fatalities and one of the main proposals is to spend more time during the test on ‘independent driving’, where the candidate is asked to drive by following either verbal directions or traffic signs, or a combination of the two.
At the moment, only 10 minutes of the test are given over to independent driving.
The DVSA suggests an increase to 20 minutes so that learners get the opportunity to be tested on high-speed roads (excluding motorways) where most fatal collisions take place.
At the moment, learners are not allowed to drive on motorways, even with a qualified instructor in the car.
There are frequent calls for lessons to include motorway driving so that young motorists can gain some valuable motorway experience.
The government is also thought to be in favour of the idea although nothing has yet been agreed.
The DVSA also wants to replace the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road’ manoeuvres with more real-life scenarios, such as driving into and reversing out of a parking space.
The turn-in-the-road manoeuvre – otherwise known as a three-point turn, though there is no restriction on the number of points you can make – is a tricky one, and many learners would be mightily relieved if it were no longer part of the test.
Candidates might also in future be asked to follow directions from a sat nav.
More than half of car drivers now have a sat nav and the DVSA wants new drivers to be trained to use the devices safely.
Finally, the DVSA suggests that one of the two vehicle safety questions, known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions, should be asked while the candidate is driving.
Again, the idea is to check that the driver can, for example, turn on a heated rear screen without losing control of the car.
Change for the better
It’s hard to argue with the proposed alterations to the driving test.
One in five young drivers has an accident with six months of passing their test, so anything that can prepare them better for driving in modern conditions must be welcome.
The new test could, however, be more difficult. Learners might therefore need to pay for more lessons before they were ready to apply.
At the moment, only 21% of drivers pass their test first time and the percentage could fall if the amendments to the test were given the green light.
The government is keen to encourage drivers to prepare more fully for their test and to apply only when they are confident of passing.
Last year, it published proposals for a cashback incentive, suggesting that drivers pay a deposit when they take their test, which would be refunded if they pass, making the test cheaper for successful candidates.
Again, however, no decision has yet been made.
The DVSA is consulting on its proposed changes to the driving test and the deadline to have your say is 25 August.