How have the UK driving test changes been received and what can we learn from other countries?

It has been over a year since the driving test in the UK underwent a series of historic changes – the biggest in more than 20 years. In December 2017, it was announced that learner drivers would now have to follow a sat-nav system during their test, as well as complete a range of different maneuvers and drive independently for 20 minutes.

So, one year on, how have people reacted to the new test and how could it be amended further? Motorparks, retailers of prestige used cars, have looked into the matter:

How did people react to the changes?

Gareth Llewellyn, the DVSA’s chief executive, had the following to say when the aforementioned changes to the UK’s driving test were being announced: “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.”

One of the early supporters of the alterations was Britain’s Transport Minister, Andrew Jones. He pointed out: “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.”

As the changes were being proposed, there was plenty of support for the alterations by members of the public too. 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.

Research sent out by Continental Tyres on the same day that the changes to the driving test came into force, which involved a study of 2,000 drivers, also revealed that over half of motorists were in favour of the alterations.

Has there been a change in opinion now that those trying to get their driver’s licence have actually witnessed the alterations during their examinations? 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. The report also acknowledged that 86.3 per cent of new drivers now use a sat nav at least some of the time when they are driving. 86.2 per cent felt confident that they can drive safely while following directions provided to them via one of these gadgets.

What’s more, the DVSA has recorded that the practical driving test pass rate has been 45.5 per cent between December 2017 and December 2018. While this is the first time that the percentage of passes has fallen to under 46 per cent since 2010, the DVSA’s chief driving examiner, Mark Winn, stated: “The driving test was changed to make sure new drivers have the skills they need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving — not to make it harder.

“The old driving test spent a disproportionate amount of time on low-risk roads, such as housing estates, largely to access locations to carry out manoeuvring exercises. The changed manoeuvres, while testing the same skills, are more representative of what new drivers will encounter in their everyday driving.”

Suggestions for further improvements

Looking at driving tests taken across the globe could give the DVSA inspiration if they wanted to make more changes to the driving examinations sat throughout Wales, England and Scotland. Here’s three ideas…

1.      Practice driving at night

Driving at night is common for motorists across the UK. You’ll likely need to be behind the wheel after the sun goes down to complete a commute from work, for instance, as well as at the end of a late-night shopping outing or when heading home after being out for a meal or cinema trip. 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.

Those learning to drive in Sweden are required to participate in compulsory night-time driving sessions though, so that they can get used to being on the road while it’s dark. 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.

2.      Help for nervous drivers

A major report undertaken by the University of Cambridge and published in the medical journal Brain and Behavior revealed that more than eight million people throughout the UK suffer from a type 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.”

The Netherlands may have come up with an even-more ideal solution to assist motorists anxious with sitting their driving test though. 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.

3.      Check the car for leaks

Before they even begin to drive in a practical examination, candidates in South Africa can fail their test. 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.

An oil leak is just one thing to watch out for. 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.

It’s simply a case of wait and see as to whether any of these ideas eventually become a part of the driving test sat in Wales, England and Scotland. If you’re preparing to sit an examination soon though, we wish you the best of luck!