Major changes are being introduced to the driving test in England, Scotland and Wales, and with these changes, two famous items which have become almost part of British folklore are being dropped.
From December 4, candidates will no longer be asked to reverse around a corner or ‘turn in the road using forward and reverse gears’- the correct name for the legendary driving test three-point-turn.
The changes – said to be the biggest since 1996 – are intended to make the test more relevant to modern driving conditions. The main change is that the Independent Driving part of the test will be doubled to 20 minutes – half the overall test- and in four out of five tests, the candidate will follow directions from a satnav.
The examiner will provide the device and set it up, and candidates will not be failed for making a wrong turn unless a ‘failable’ driving fault is also committed. One in five tests will not involve a satnav and instead require a candidate to follow direction signs. As well as making the test more ‘realistic’ this change is intended to allow more use of high-speed roads.
The existing choice of three manoeuvres is being replaced by a new set, with candidates being asked to either parallel-park at the side of the road, park in a bay or pull up on the right-hand side if the road, reverse for two vehicle lengths and then rejoin traffic.
Finally, two selected ‘show me, tell me’ safety questions will be asked, one at the start of the test, the other while a candidate is driving. The pass/fail threshold is to remain unchanged at one serious or dangerous fault, or 16 or more minor faults.
Gareth Llewellyn, Chief Executive of the DVSA said. “Making sure the driving test better assesses a driver’s ability to drive safely and independently is part of our strategy to help you stay safe on Britain’s roads. It’s vital that the driving test keeps up to date with new vehicle technology and the areas where new drivers face the greatest risk once they’ve passed their test.”
Compulsory driver testing in Britain started in 1936. There were no test centres in the early days; candidates simply met the examiner at a pre-agreed location. Testing was suspended during WW2 and again in 1955 for the Suez Crisis, with driving examiners redeployed to supervise fuel rationing.
There were, however, few changes to the test format until the mid-1970s, though in 1969 separate tests were introduced for automatic and manual transmission with those who passed on an automatic receiving an auto-only licence, and hand signals were dropped from the test in 1975.
Then in 1990 examiners started giving oral post-test debriefs on faults –up to then they had simply handed over a pre-printed ‘statement of failure’ with certain areas highlighted. The separate theory test replaced ‘highway code questions’ in 1995 with the present touchscreen theory testing replacing a written paper in 2002.