Do you know about the UK Driving Test changes?

This year has seen some important changes to the UK driving test. While some have challenged the wisdom of the changes, they are in my view, a step forward - and they are here now, so you should understand them if you are taking the test.

Independent driving

Since early October 2010, the UK Driving Test includes a section of 'independent driving' - about 10 minutes without direction from the examiner, in contrast to the step-by-step instructions issued during the other sections of the test, and throughout the previous test format.

In the new test, during the independent driving phase, the examiner will issue directions or instruct the candidate to follow traffic signs - or perhaps a combination of the two.

With many drivers relying on technology such as satellite navigation to find their way to their destination, the old-fashioned way of using a map and reading road signs is fast becoming out of date. Whilst for the most part sat navs are useful, it is important that new drivers remain fully alert and are able to demonstrate that they can follow signs on their own and and not rely on other people or gadgets to help them.

The Directgov site stresses that, if the candidate forgets the route or otherwise gets lost, they will not be penalised. This is because the examiner is not testing orientation and navigation skills. However, driving faults will be penalised.

Instead, the examiner will help the candidate get back on the route - indeed, if you do get lost or otherwise confused, it's best to come clean and the examiner will help you get back on track.

Test routes and manoeuvres

Test routes are no longer published: Until early October 2010, the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) published details of test routes online, but no longer. This supports the Independent Driving section of the test by not allowing candidates to drive and/or memorise the route they will be tested over.

There's only one manoeuvre: While there were previously two manoeuvres in the test, there's now only one. While manoeuvres are obviously an important part of driving, it seems logical that by testing just one, candidates will have more driving time on the roads, experiencing more junctions and roundabouts, which are normally the areas that a few drivers are less confident and serious accidents are more likely to happen.

Future changes

Future changes may be to scrap the Pass Plus scheme, introducing a driver attitude test, implementing a minimum learning time of 12 months to match the rest of Europe, retesting drivers every five to 10 years and motorway testing. Lowering the the drink drive limit to 20mg per 100ml for newly-qualified drivers has also been under discussion.

David Williams MBE is the CEO of GEM Motoring Assist, a leading road safety organisation in the UK. They provide roadside rescue and breakdown cover to motorists in the UK.

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