The New ‘Sat Nav’ Driving Test – Is it Worth It?

The New 'Sat Nav' Driving Test - Is it Worth It?

The ‘modernised’ driving test will require learners to follow directions on a satnav as part of their independent drive as the DVSA rolled our the new changes on the 4th December 2017. The driving test has had its biggest re-vamp in 20 years!

The New Changes To The Driving Test

After a trial period of two years – the DVSA finally rolled out the new changes of the driving test on 4th December 2017.

The new changes replace the old independent driving part of the exam which required learner drivers to follow road signs and/or directions,  but instead,  has now been replaced with a pre-configured route on a satnav that the learner driver must follow. The former 10 minutes of independent driving has increased to 20 minutes.

Other changes to the driving test include pulling forward into a bay and reversing out of one. The left corner reverse and turn-in-the-road have been axed from the driving test altogether. Learners will now be asked to park on the right-hand side of the road and reverse backwards two car lengths and will need to answer one of their ‘show me tell me‘ questions on the move.

Ministers say the move is to cut road deaths in the UK as more and more people are using modern technology. However – some critics have concerns over the changes as studies conducted at University College London in 2014 showed that parts of the brain that uses navigation skills abandoned calculations when using a satnav device. Other concerns have been raised that driver’s brains ‘switch off’ when not being used to calculate routes and destinations.

AA President Edmund King has shared his support for the new driving test format. The Guardian reports:”These changes will test drivers in a more realistic manner which is essential to improving their safety once their L plates have been removed.”

Consultation Statistics Of The New Driving Test Format

The new test format was introduced after a successful 2 year trial period where 3,900 people took part, including 4,300 learner drivers and 860 driving instructors (ADI’s). From the public consultation over 88% agreed that the independent driving part of the test should be increased to 20 minutes – instead of the current 10 minutes.

Over 70% of the trial preferred the idea of candidates following directions from a sat nav. Also, 78% favoured the new testing of the reversing exercises.

The new driving test format is to replicate real-life driving – a study by the National Travel Survey 2014 shows that car owners using a sat nav had increased from 32.9% in 2009 to 51.9% in 2014. The use of the satnavs has grown year on year and have become a staple driving aid for the modern driver.

The New Additions To The Practical Driving Test 

  1. 4/5 tests will need to follow directions from a satnav as par the independent drive section of the driving test for 20 minutes
  2. 1/5 tests will follow road signs and directions as par the independent drive section of the driving test for 20 minutes
  3. 1/3 tests will perform an emergency stop exercise
  4. A show-me/tell-me question will be asked at the start of the test, and one question will be asked on the move
  5. Every test will have one reversing exercise, which shall include one of the following: reverse parallel park, reverse bay park, forward bay park, park up on the right-hand side.
  6. A new ‘show-me’ question has been introduced to the already existing set of questions, which include: “When it is safe to do so, can you show me how you open your driver’s window?”

The new driving test routes now account for ‘more’ out-of-town driving experience, with some driving examiners claiming that new routes can now cover a 16-mile range. Whereas the old routes only used to cover a 6-8 mile range.

left corner reverse example

An illustration of the scrapped left corner reverse manoeuvre.

With the disappearance of the turn-in-the-road and left corner reverse exercise, driving tests have more time to get out of town to get some real driving experience in, as they aren’t having to waste time in residential areas finding safe places to do the old reversing exercises.

The new reversing manoeuvres include forward bay park and parking on the right-hand side and reversing back 2 car lengths before re-joining the traffic. The forward bay park will now be conducted in a public car park, and the pupil can choose whether they park on the right or the left. The reverse bay park will continue to be conducted in driving test centre car parks.

Due to the nature of this reversing exercise, this is preferred due to the time it takes some learner drivers. Again, the learner can choose to reverse in from the right or the left-hand side. This may be done at the start or at the end of the driving exam.

3 Months On – What Do We Think?

Since the launch of the new driving test, there have been mixed reactions across the country. There have been reports of dis-satisfied driving instructors and some driving examiners, claiming that the satnavs have not worked properly and that routes have confused learner drivers. Very often, driving examiners have to take-over when satnav devices are displaying wrong or confusing directions for learner drivers.

On one account a driving instructor from Banbury claimed that one of the new routes their test candidate was on, spent more than 30 minutes following a satnav, and the route was very easy – stating that the learner driver in question spent more than 25 minutes driving on country lanes in a straight line.

They continued to explain that the test itself had hardly any left or right turns and only covered very basic town driving towards the end of the test.

Some learners have also claimed that they hardly looked at the road signs at all and that they didn’t know if they had benefitted from using the satnav at all. With some stating, that they probably wouldn’t be able to afford to buy one after learning to drive, purchasing a car and fronting the cost of the annual car insurance.

What do you think? Have you recently passed your driving test, what has been your experience of the new test changes? Please comment below – we would love to hear from you!

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