From 4 December 2017, the UK practical driving test will go through one of its biggest transformations in recent times. In a bid to ensure new drivers have the skills they need to drive safely on modern UK roads, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has confirmed a series of updates to the car driving exam and what is expected of learner drivers to pass their final test.

Vindis, a VW dealership, has looked into the test changes and what you can expect if you’re a driving instructor or student.

When to expect the new driving test rules

Essentially, there are four main test changes to look out for, effective from 4 December 2017. These alterations apply only to car driving for now, but they’re nothing to worry about — instructors will teach learners everything they need to know prior to the test.

Sat nav driving

The first change refers to how we follow directions. More than half of car drivers own a sat nav, or have one in their vehicles. So, the DVSA want to make sure that all new drivers are trained on using these safely.

Instead of the instructor guiding you through the roads during your test, there’ll be a section of the independent driving part of the exam devoted to taking directions from a provided sat nav. Typically, a TomTom Start 52 will be used and drivers will be expected to follow directions for the route that the examiner sets out in the device. However, drivers will not fail outright if they go the wrong way — as long as they are driving safely.

If this sounds daunting to you, one in five driving tests actually won’t feature the sat nav section and learners will instead use traffic signs to get around.

Duration increases

The time change relates only to the independent driving part of the test (independent driving requires the learner to drive safely on the roads without having turn-by-turn instructions).

Previously, this lasted about 10 minutes. But, from 4 December, independent driving will take up approximately 50% of the full driving test.

Changes to reversing manoeuvres

Except to see the elimination of two manoeuvres, too. Drivers will no longer reverse around a corner or perform the ‘turn-in-the-road’ technique, although, driving instructors should still teach you these for after your exam.

Here are the three manoeuvres that you could be tested on:

  • Park in the bay (driving into a space and reversing out/reverse into a space and drive out).
  • Parallel park at the side of the road.
  • Parking and re-joining traffic: (pull up on the right-hand side of the road and reverse two car lengths before joining traffic again).

Responding to questions at the wheel

Once, the instructor would ask exam questions before you started driving. However, this is set to change from December. Examiners will ask ‘tell me’ questions at the start of your test, and ‘show me’ questions during your drive.

Learners to take on motorways

Something you would have tackled after you passed your test would be driving on motorways, now learner drivers will have to drive on motorways as part of their learning experience — only if they are accompanied by a qualified driving instructor and operating a dual-control car.

Not practicing driving on motorways and then having to handle it as a solo driver has been a point of concern for many. Driving on motorways with your driving instructor means that newly-qualified drivers don’t have to drive motorways for the first time alone, and can instead practise switching lanes and using slip roads safely.

Many experts are behind this particular alteration to the driving test.

Jasmine Halstead, head of learning and development for British School of Motoring, said: “If learners aren’t allowed to practise on motorways, then some will avoid them, and others will use them incorrectly. Therefore, it’s great news for road safety that learners will be able to drive on motorways under supervision.”

Other than these four changes, the driving test will stay the same — lasting around 40 minutes and allowing the student to pass if they make no more than 15 minor faults and zero major errors.

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