At the lights, go where you want... driving exam to test navigation skills

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The Independent Online

The sat-nav generation should take note: from next month all learner drivers will be expected to demonstrate their own navigational skills to pass their driving tests.

To make the driving exam more challenging, test routes will cease to be published and the step-by-step instructions from the examiner on which way to turn will stop. From next month, all learner drivers will have to demonstrate that they are confident enough to drive a car without guidance.

For 10 minutes of the driving test, they will instead have to navigate alone, after being given a set of instructions on how to travel from A to B. Alternatively, they will be told to follow the signs to a given point, such as a town centre.

Taking the wrong turning will not mean automatic failure, but learners will be expected to drive safely – however badly lost they find themselves or however far from the route they stray. The move is likely to lead to a rush in learner drivers taking their tests before the new section is introduced.

Learners are, by law, barred from driving alone and the changes introduced to the test from 4 October are intended to bridge the gap between independent motoring and having an experienced driver with them.

Trevor Wedge, chief driving examiner for the Driving Standards Agency, the Government body responsible for running the tests, said: "Evidence shows that the biggest challenge newly-qualified drivers face after passing their test is learning how to cope when they no longer have their instructor there to help and prompt them.

"We want to make sure that new drivers and riders are ready to make their own decisions when driving alone. Learning how to do that in preparation for their test should lead to better and safer drivers."

Mike Penning, the Road Safety Minister, was also anxious to end the practice of publishing the routes tests take. He said: "We want new drivers to be able to drive safely and independently and learning to drive test routes by rote isn't the way to achieve this."

The changes were welcomed by the British School of Motoring, which said they were designed to promote good driving rather than merely getting people through their tests. Andrew Howard, the AA's head of road safety, said "finding your own way" is "one of the basic challenges of driving once you have your full licence".