Should the driving test be brought up to date?

As the driving test celebrates its 80th birthday, Auto Express readers have called for major changes to be made to make it more comprehensive.

An Auto Express poll of over 1,500 people revealed that 65 per cent support steps to make it tougher, while just 21 per cent think it’s fine as it is.

A further seven per cent would like changes introduced to make it more straightforward – and another seven per cent want it axed! 

• How to get your driving licence

Trials are currently underway in select test centres for learners to take the test with a new set of manoeuvres, plus an independent driving section where they must follow a prescribed route via sat-nav.

But there’s plenty more scope for change, so we asked a range of top motoring organisations for their ideas on how the test can be made better to produce safer drivers and help cut teen accident rates.

Auto Express also spoke to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which operates the test. Chief executive Alastair Peoples said: “We are carrying out initial research to explore how the driving test could better reflect real-life driving. Any future changes would be subject to full public consultation.”

• Practical driving test: how to pass

Test of driving in poor weather

Institute of Advanced Motorists

British weather is notoriously unpredictable and can throw up driving challenges at a moment’s notice, whether it’s a deluge of rain, a snow flurry or high winds.

Learners may come across these during lessons, but there’s no necessity to demonstrate skills as part of the test. The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) believes testing in poor weather could be included to properly prepare drivers for different conditions.

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive, said: “The UK climate means there is a frequent need
for experience in driving in rain, snow and sleet, and new drivers have little concept of how a car’s behaviour and tyres change in poor weather. We’d like to see a test of driving in poor weather.”

Video feedback of the test itself

RAC Foundation

Some learners freeze under the pressure of the test or may disagree with why they’ve failed.

The RAC Foundation said recording it would allow examiners to give feedback on different incidents and reasons for a pass or fail.

Drivers should be asked to explain the decisions they made during the independent driving section, too, while instructors could be involved more in the exam process to prevent relying just on the ‘snapshot’ test.

Steve Gooding, RAC Foundation director, said: “Safe driving is about technical competence and good judgement. Historically, the driving test focused on the former – looking ahead we need
to find better ways to assess and reinforce the importance of both.”

• Driving test ‘show me, tell me’ quesions: hints and tips

Higher speed roads in the test

Institute of Advanced Motorists

Most of the mileage done by drivers is on the motorway, yet it plays no part in the test and learners aren’t even allowed to drive on them.

This is something the Institute of Advanced Motorists wants to see tackled as part of an updated driving test, and it’s listed it as one of its priorities for 2015. IAM chief executive Sarah Sillars said: “Higher speed roads should be in the practical driving test.

Currently, gaining experience of driving on a motorway is left entirely up to the driver once they’ve passed their test and it’s a situation that must be addressed.”

It’s an idea that’s supported elsewhere, too. The RAC Foundation told us it wanted to see an “increased proportion of the test time spent on fast roads”.

Inclusion of new technology

AA

It’s already being trialled in select test centres, but the AA would like to see drivers tested on their ability to use new technology and multi-task while driving to better reflect real-world needs.

Edmund King, AA president, wants to see a “show me how to” element introduced including using sat-navs, using windscreen wipers or operating the heater.

King said: “Drivers can easily be distracted by a variety of tasks during driving, but it is important they can manage and prioritise these tasks.”

The Institute of Advanced Motorists backed this idea, too, and said learning how to use the latest interactive screens and avoiding distractions should be an important part of any updated test.

• History of the UK driving test

Review of the pass rate

RED Driving School

Pass rates vary greatly across the UK, with higher successes in parts of the country where roads are quieter and less congested.

RED Driving School wants this to be re-evaluated to ensure drivers are prepared for all types of driving – both rural and urban.

Ian McIntosh, RED Driving School’s chief executive officer, said: “One glaring anomaly in the current regime is the huge variation in pass rates across test centres.

“Too many who are not truly ready achieve a pass in the rural areas and some who have solid experience and competence in the congested areas fail due to complex scenarios in which even experienced drivers can make technical mistakes.”

Learning to drive

First cars graphic FINAL

Passing your driving test

Getting your first car

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