Driving test change introduces 'independent' section

L-plate being ripped up
Image caption The Driving Standards Agency says the test will now involve more realistic situations

Changes to the driving test coming into effect in the UK later will see people following a route "independently".

Candidates will not receive step-by-step directions from their examiner during the 10-minute section, which will test how they drive unsupervised.

Test route maps will no longer appear online but the Driving Standards Agency says learners can ask for reminders and will not be failed for getting lost.

The number of driving manoeuvres tested is to fall from two to one.

The DSA says the introduction of an independent driving part of the test will allow examiners to better assess whether drivers are ready to drive unsupervised.

It says candidates will be tested on their ability to drive in more realistic situations, rather than memorising a pre-defined test route.

DSA chief driving examiner Trevor Wedge said the aim was to see a candidate's "ability to drive safely while making decisions independently".

"It's not a test of navigation and candidates won't be failed for going off route," he said.

"The test is being improved to help produce safer drivers, but that doesn't mean it's getting any harder. We know many instructors are already teaching independent driving."

'Necessary skills'

Peter Rodger, chief examiner of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, welcomed the change and said it would indicate how candidates coped with "an integral part of day-to-day driving".

But he urged the DSA to make testing on rural roads a compulsory element of the test, saying research has shown up to 75% of accidents take place there.

Road safety minister Mike Penning said: "We want all new drivers to be able to drive safely and independently and are considering how both training and testing can be improved to achieve this."

He said the independent driving assessment gave test candidates the chance to show they have the "necessary skills to cope with the sort of traffic conditions they will face every day".

Meanwhile, the Association of British Insurers is calling for the learning period for new drivers to be at least one year.

In a poll of 2,500 people commissioned by the ABI, 75% thought not letting new drivers take the test for 12 months would help to reduce high death and serious injury rates among young motorists while 69% backed restrictions on the number of passengers newly-qualified drivers could carry.

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