Independent driving in the Driving Test
What's all this about changes to the driving test?
The CAR driving test in England, Scotland and Wales changed since Monday 4 December 2017.
Find out more about changes to the practical driving test Which includes more independent driving and using a Sat Nav
Which tests include independent driving or riding?
The independent driving or riding section is included in the following practical driving tests:
How will I be tested on 'independent driving'?
The candidate will be asked to pull over and the examiner will ask them to drive independently by one, or possibly a combination, of the following methods. The candidate won't be able to influence which method is chosen – that's up to the examiner.
1. Via road signs and markings – for example, the examiner will ask, 'For the next ten minutes please follow the road signs to the town centre.'
2. Via a series of three, or very occasionally four verbal directions given by the examiner (similar to how you might get directions from a passer-by) – for example, 'drive along then take the first left, straight ahead at the roundabout then second right'.
When using verbal directions, the examiner will also show them a diagram before setting off.
3. Via a Sat-Nav, Oddly, One in 5 driving tests won’t use a sat nav. You’ll need to follow traffic signs instead. The examiner will provide the sat nav and set it up. You have to use the one supplied by the examiner so you can't use your own. You won’t need to set the route - the examiner will do this for you. You’ll be able to ask the examiner for confirmation of where you’re going if you’re not sure. It won’t matter if you go the wrong way unless you make a fault while doing it.
If you forget the directions you are allowed to ask the examiner to confirm them as they drive along.
If road signs are obscured, say by an overhanging tree or a parked vehicle, the examiner will intervene and say, 'the sign's obscured here but you're meant to take the next left'.
The independent driving section isn't meant to test candidates navigating skills – if they take a wrong turn or get lost it won't count against them. It's more to do with letting them show their ability to drive safely without constant direction from their instructor or examiner. Though of course if they get flustered and make a driving fault during this section, such as excessive hesitation at a junction then this will be marked as a fault.
The video below is an example showing the independent driving section of the UK driving test
Does this mean that the test will take longer or cost more?
The test will stay same length of approxiamately 40 minutes, as the addition of the 20 minutes of independent driving will be balanced out by the fact that one of the manouevres has been dropped.
Will this make the test more difficult and mean I've got less chance of passing?
During early trials of the new test, the pass rate did drop noticeably. But the DVSA claim that the new version will have a similar pass rate to the current test (pass rates vary between test centres but the national average is about 45%).
People who struggle with manoeuvres might actually find the test easier, as there's less chance of failing by mounting the kerb during an ill-judged reverse around a corner.
However, some driving instructors do have reservations about the way the independent driving section has been designed and feel it might disadvantage people with special needs such as dyslexia or who have English as a second language.
What arrangements have been made for people with special needs, or those with English as a second language?
Although the basic driving test is the same for everyone, adjustments will be made for people with special needs.
For example, some dyslexic people have problems with the directions 'left and right' and find phrases such as 'your way' and 'my way' more useful. Dyslexic candidates will be be given a maximum of three verbal directions, rather than four. Deaf candidates will be allowed to have a sign language interpreter with them and to choose which method of independent driving (for example, being shown the diagram) would work best for them.
People with English as a second language are allowed to have an interpreter with them during their test
Are there any more changes to the driving test in the pipeline?
Various changes that have been considered in the past include – raising the driving age to 18, imposing a total ban on alcohol for new drivers, having a minimum learning time of 12 months, including motorway driving and introducing a compulsory classroom-based session on road safety.
What are the top tips for getting through the independent driving section of the test?
Firstly, don't be shy about asking the examiner to repeat the directions at any time. Secondly, remember that you're not being judged on your navigating skills, but on your driving – and your ability to drive safely must always come first.
So if, for example, you're driving along and realise you're in the wrong lane don't suddenly swerve into the correct one without warning. Only move over if you've checked your mirrors and it's safe to do so. If it isn't, because you've left things too late then just continue in the same lane and ask the examiner's advice for getting back on track.
Practice makes perfect, so get plenty of practice from a Approved Driving Instructor.
Feature by kind permission from Maria McCarthy, author of "THE GIRLS' GUIDE TO LOSING YOUR L-PLATES"