The Government has announced plans to change the practical driving test to better reflect the realities of modern driving.
The proposed changes were announced as part of the Government’s wider motoring services strategy, which covers everything from how the DVLA manages driver records to how to support the British automotive industry.
The document says that with changes in driver demographic, vehicle use and vehicle features driving assessment needs to evolve to reflect this.
The Government says it is currently examining various changes to the test to encourage more real-life driving, reflect local variations and take into account the increasing automation of vehicles.
As well as creating a more realistic driving experience during the test, the DVSA is also piloting new materials in the hazard perception test to broaden the range of scenarios, including different weather and lighting and encountering vulnerable road users, an issue it says needs to be addressed.
There are also proposals to give learners broader experience by allowing them onto motorways when accompanied by an instructor, something that is currently not permitted.
The strategy also proposes extending the hours when tests are available. The study noted that many people booked their test before they were ready because of the difficulties in getting a suitable test slot and that the current first-time pass rate is less than 50 per cent. By offering more tests outwith daytime weekday slots the DSA hopes to cut down on the number of people booking tests before they are ready.
The RAC has welcomed moves to update the driving test. RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “The nature of driving in the UK is changing at a tremendous pace so we are pleased to see the Government is finally responding by comprehensively reviewing the driving test.
“The intention to evolve the practical driving test to more closely reflect real world driving, including increasing vehicle automation, is also welcome. Data from the RAC shows 35 per cent of young motorists aged 17 to 24 believe the practical driving test does not cover all the skills required to cope with the demands of driving today.
“The changes could mean a new generation of drivers learn to use technology such as sat-navs, which are increasingly standard in modern vehicles, in a safe and appropriate way. With further driver assistance technology on the horizon as we move towards driverless cars, the RAC would like to see a commitment to more regular reviews of the driving test so that it keeps pace with future technology.”
Also contained in the strategy is a suggestion to involve private firms in providing driving tests. At the moment, the DVSA is responsible for delivering all driving tests.
The strategy states: “We are exploring whether other models of service delivery might offer a better service to road users, either as an alternative to the current arrangements or to complement them, including involving the private sector in delivery.”
The RAC’s Pete Williams warned: “The UK’s testing standards must not be compromised by any change to the way driving tests are delivered. However, it is vital that any private sector involvement in delivering the test is scrutinised thoroughly to ensure quality levels remain consistently high and that there is no conflict of interest for those organisations seeking to take part in the delivery of the practical test.”