Driving test to be more 'mentally demanding'

"Mirror. Signal. Memorise" may become the new buzzwords for the UK's learner-drivers after a revamp to the driving test to encourage "independent thinking."

Learners will be asked to get themselves to a location 10 minutes away specified by the examiner – either by remembering directions or by following signs, mimicking a situation where a driver gets lost, according the Driving Standards Agency (DSA).

According to the DSA, the current test does not do enough to prepare drivers for the unaccompanied driving that will invariably occur post-test. When examiners tell candidates to, for example, turn left at the next junction, they are being given clues about which lane to be in. The new "independent driving" element is designed to rectify that.

Some motoring groups have suggested the changes will make the test too difficult. Others have praised them for better replicating real world circumstances.

Hugh Bladon of the Association of British Drivers said: "These new measures are missing the point of stopping reckless drivers on the road. These confusing new tasks could just make it more costly and take more time for learner drivers to pass their test."

The DSA – which this week celebrates the 75th anniversary of the driving test – had already made the test harder after a review last year.

It says the new test, coming in the autumn, will expose learners to real-life situations, namely getting lost or the possibility of having to flag down passers-by to ask for directions.

Even if the candidate does successfully navigate to the desired location, he or she will be asked to perform a U-turn to recreate a driver going the wrong way and having to turn the car around.

In the DSA's tests of the new section, the 100 learners tested made five times more mistakes than in the traditional test. The learners said it was "effortful, mentally demanding and frustrating" and just 18 per cent passed, less than one in five.

The new test will be introduced on 4 October and cost the same – £62. Learners will still have to take the theory test which was introduced in 1996.

The DSA's chief driving examiner Trevor Wedge said: "This year will see the introduction of independent driving into the test, to help candidates demonstrate their ability to drive without step-by-step instruction.

"Evidence shows learning to drive alone is the biggest challenge faced by newly-qualified drivers. We believe that this added element will lead to better and safer drivers."

The changes were welcomed by motoring group The Institute of Advanced Motorists, who said they were more "realistic".

Chief examiner Peter Rodger said: "You take away the examiners' prompt to turn and instead have to work it out for yourself as you do in the real world.

"The changes will make the tests more realistic and increase the standard of those coming onto our roads."

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