In the last ten years many thousands for people have taken and failed their driving test in the UK. Is the reason they are failing their driving test (and does the UK have a lower pass rate) because the test is actually getting harder? Or is it just that drivers are getting worse?
Or it could be that driving instructors are not teaching learner drivers properly? You will no doubt have your own opinion on this but what’s the truth?
The truth is that we have one of the best driving tests in Europe, if not the world, and the highest levels of driving ability in the world too. Yet our roads produce some of the highest road traffic incidents in Europe. Why?
Simply because we do not follow the rules put in place or the styles of driving we are taught and this is why driver training is an ever evolving creature. This said there is a point to be made that roads and vehicle technology are making cars faster and with better roads people want to push their skills and vehicles.
So what’s changed over the last 10 years to keep up with the changes? “Not enough” would be the short answer, but the newly formed DVSA, which stands for Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and is made up of the DSA (Driving Standards Agency), VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) and the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency) are trying to keep up with the huge amount of red tape they have to wade through.
The theory test which was introduced in July 1996 as a written test and then updated to a computer in 2000. Since the computer version of the theory test the then DSA have stopped publishing the questions and answers so pupils now have to learn the different subjects rather than learning which answer goes with which question.
The practical test was introduced in 1934 as part of the new Road Traffic Act and has changed many times over the years but the basics of control and safety have run throughout the changes.
The eyesight field test has been part of the test for a long time but the vehicle safety check questions are something that has been introduced in the last 10 years along with the independent drive and the removal of one of the manoeuvres.
The vehicle safety questions are 19 questions all about different parts of the car e.g. “Can you tell me / show me how you would check your oil levels on the vehicle2 or “can you show me / tell how you would check your horn is working properly”. Basic I know but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
The independent drive is a 10 minutes (approx) section of the driving test where the examiner asks the pupil to:
• follow traffic signs to a destination, or
• follow a series of verbal instructions, or
• follow a combination of both.
The latest changes are the introduction and thinking of “client centred learning” which is not only how the DVSA want driving instructors to teach but is arguably the biggest change as this means that the client will choose how and what they learn instead of relying on the ADi (driving instructor), with all their knowledge and training, to guide the pupil through the subjects. The problem is that the pupil does not know what subjects go well with each other e.g. reversing around a corner and parallel parking, both of these subjects use similar control methods and vision points. Whilst I do agree that some driving instructors do just teach the 1 method and go through the motions to earn money there are many driving instructors who enjoy teaching and want to do what’s best to get their pupil through the test in the quickest and safest manner as well as giving them the skills to be a good driver for life.
I believe that the changes do make a difference but on some occasions change is done for change sake and the radical changes that should be made get lost. I personally think that the following changes should be made:
1) A mandatory record of training by use of a log book or training record should be presented at test to show the examiner that the pupil is at the required level. Each subject would be signed by the driving instructor, to show the subject has been taught and the pupil to show it has been understood. This would negate the need of testing the manoeuvres which is something people do not use, except parking.
2) Compulsory theory training within the education system of schools.
3) Removal of the 6 month period in which potential driving instructors can teach by themselves. Each trainee instructor should be accompanied, when teaching, by a fully qualified driving instructor.
4) Compulsory Road Safety training in all schools especially for 16 year olds
Whatever changes have been made or will be made there will be mistakes and good ideas but we all need to keep putting our ideas forward and embrace change.