Changes are coming to the Driving Test on Monday 4 December.
The aim of the changes is to bring it in line with modern driving conditions by giving the examiner more time to assess the driver in “real world conditions” - not going round housing estates looking for quiet and empty bits of road to do current test manoeuvres, such as the turn in the road and reversing round a corner.
These two current manoeuvres are being axed, but the skills required in both will continue to be tested in a new reverse bay parking exercise.
While this may sound pleasing to some, these manoeuvres teach pupils important skills, such as taking important all round observations in mirrors and all round the car, as well as good car control on the open road. It is important that ADI’s continue to teach these manoeuvres so that these skills can be honed.
The independent driving section of the exam is being retained, but it has been extended to 20 minutes, and now requires the pupil to follow sat nav directions for the entirety of those 20 minutes. This has been brought in to update the test to modern day driving - almost all new cars come with sat-nav, and if not people tend to follow sat nav on their phones which are held in holders on the dashboard or window.
While the new version of this test is being introduced, 20% off all the new tests being taken will use the existing procedure of following signs, to ensure that those skills are still being taught and pupil do not lose the ability to follow signs.
There will also be a test of the pupils ability to handle ancillary controls whilst on the move, such as altering the heating/ventilation, or activating the rear demister.
However, there has been some discontent from observers, who voiced their surprise that, as of the end of April, we are still waiting to see the official outcome outcome of the L-test trial, including evidence that it has had a positive impact on novice drivers’ post-test experiences. The hope is that those who took the new test demonstrate safer driving post-test and report fewer crashes.
4,000 candidates took part in the trial - 2,000 taking the new and 2,000 taking the current test. The norm for this type of research is that it is released before the reforms are announced.
However, some senior voices have weighed in with criticism over the lack of slow manoeuvres. Here is AA President Edmund King; “Following signs is a stricter test of a driver’s skill than using a sat nav. They have to be very observant, ask themselves where they need to position themselves, and prepare to turn or avoid a bus lane. We’ve had plenty of cases where people go down one-way streets because the sat nav is not up to date or a road layout has changed. When sat nav go wrong, people get stuck. There is a risk of becoming over-dependent on sat navs. It tells you to turn left or right at a junction. But when you follow signs, you have to be physically, mentally and psychologically alert.”
There are concerns that errors in sat nav planning, or a lack of map updates taking new road layouts into account could lead learners or novices into situations they can’t get out of.
The UCL (University College London) also did some research regarding two important areas of the brain for navigating - the entorhinal cortex and the hippocampus. These areas “lit up” when asked to calculate a route, yet when asked to follow instructions the brain abandons its calculations.
Another issue with introducing sat nav to the test is the reliance of phone based apps being used for navigating when the government has just upped the penalties for using you phone whilst driving. It seems like the government is contradicting itself.
While the new L-test changes may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they do bring it up to date with modern standards of driving and connectivity - something that will only increase as time goes on.