Driving Lessons – Practical Revamp Required
Although the practical driving test is tough, it’s not tough enough and doesn’t fully, properly, cover the most tricky conditions new drivers face. The Theory Test doesn’t need to change. It’s been looked at and updated recently and from the feedback I get from my learners it helps them begin to notice hazards they would never have seen before. The latest update has seen the DSA stop publishing the exact questions, meaning you cannot simply memorise the questions and their answers. The most useful aspect of the test though is the Hazard Perception. I see a noticeable difference in learners’ awareness once they even start to practice this and they enjoy spotting dangers they wouldn’t have before.
The Practical Test is inadequate and failing new drivers. Although the emphasis on manoeuvres has diminished in recent times, which it needed to do, there is still not enough time to assess the candidate properly. All aspects of the optional extra – the Pass Plus Scheme – need to be made compulsory and included on the test. The popularity of the Pass Plus has vastly reduced and it wasn’t popular in the first place. After all, why would anyone want to spend at least another 120 on 6 more driving lessons when they don’t ‘have’ to, even if they really ‘need’ to, especially in these times of recession.
The Practical lasts for 30 – 40 minutes only, includes one manoeuvre, a 10 minute Independent Driving phase, potentially the emergency stop, and that’s it. It all depends where you live as to what types of roads you will drive on. On the very odd occasion I have instructed a Pass Plus for a new driver, having passed in a built-up area, their skills and understanding of driving country roads especially is frightening.
I personally think the practical should be split into 3 different tests, or ‘sessions’, where a candidate will need to pass each one before moving on to the next. The three main areas needing to be covered are town driving, country road driving, and motorways. Yes more time will be required, meaning more examiners so the waiting list for tests doesn’t get any worse than it already is. And with a lengthened test and more examiners it will prove more costly for learners – but how many lives will it save? Many, is my reckoning.
Phase 1 of the test should be the same as it is already for most areas. Town driving, emergency stop, independent driving and a manoeuvre. It should be conducted at a test centre that is sufficiently close to a town.
Phase 2 should see an emphasis mostly on country roads. This should include driving through country villages, single carriageway roads of varying speed limits including the national speed limit, and single track country lanes where the candidate will need to be on the lookout for oncoming vehicles. The test here is to make sure the candidate is able to drive at a speed suitable for the conditions and show the high state of awareness required for these roads. Remember, just because you’re on a 60mph road, this very rarely means it’s an appropriate speed.
Phase 3 will see the emphasis on dual carriageways and motorways. Again these would have to be conducted at a test centre suitably close to these types of road, of which there are already many. It would mean all learners will have to be aware of road laws they otherwise my not be. How often do you see tailgating, undertaking, and people driving too slowly in the outside lanes? And are they all aware what they are doing wrong?
These changes would hugely increase knowledge and understanding, see a sharp rise in general driving standards, decrease road rage and more importantly accidents and save tens if not hundreds of lives. If it also changes a few attitudes then we’re on the right track.