Govt plans biggest overhaul of driving exam for 50 yearsThe Government is planning major changes to toughen the driving test. Likely alterations include a four-part test for learners – including two practical stages. The moves – which would add up to the biggest overhaul of driving tests for more than 50 years – are intended to reduce the estimated 300 drivers and passengers a year killed by motorists who have passed their test within the previous two years.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly considered other measures, including an after-dark curfew on novice drivers or a ban on them carrying passengers. But she rejected these after police forces said they were too difficult to enforce.

Instead, it is likely that the practical section of the existing test will be split in two. The first part will consist of a series of manuvres – three-point turns, parallel parking – lasting 20 minutes. The second part, lasting 30 minutes, will be a session driving on road. But the difference will be that learners may have to navigate to a destination using road signs: examiners would no longer give ‘turn-by-turn ‘ guidance.

Learners would also be questioned on the decisions they made while driving. A similar approach is planned for the theory section. Where at present, candidates can pass by learning answers to the written exam by heart, the new test will no longer permit this. Candidates will instead face questions designed to show that they understand road signs and laws, as part of a separate hazard perception test.

L-drivers would have to pass the theory test and gain a ‘certificate of readiness’ before progressing to the driving sections. This is intended to ensure that fewer drivers submit test applications before they are fully ready. At present, fewer than half pass the test first time.

The changes are also likely to prompt an increase in the current £56 test fee.

At the same time, stricter standards are likely to be set for instructors, with talk of grading them on a scale of between one and five stars, according to ability. But the changes will not make professional tuition compulsory.

Predictably, this has brought an angry reaction from the Driving Instructors’ Association. The DIA backs a 12-month minimum training period for learners, using a log book to chart progress. It also favoured a series of post-test restrictions on novice drivers, including a zero alcohol limit and a restriction on carrying passengers after dark. But it believes a grading system for its members would be unfair and unhelpful.

Stephen Jury


May 8, 2008

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