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Another DSA fiasco in the making?

In just a few weeks time, one of the lesser publicised changes to the DSA driving test will be upon us; so-called ‘independant driving’.

Basically, the examiner will sit back for ten minutes and the candidate will have to find their own way around the test route, without the “turn left, turn right” style instructions that have been used for decades.

DSA’s Chief Driving Examiner Trevor Wedge explained in a press release:

“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.”

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it. After all, all the candidate has to do is follow the signs.

Except that you may not be following signs!

The DSA’s new rules ALSO allow for the examiner to give the candidate “a series of directions”, perhaps with the aid of “a simple diagram… to help candidates visualise the directions”.

In other words, the candidate will have to memorise the directions for ten minutes driving. Or they may be expected to find their way using a mixture of signs and memorised directions.

Now call me Mr Goldfish Memory if you like, but I can never remember directions for more than about 30 seconds after I’ve been given them and have a lemming-like knack of losing my way to anywhere I’ve been directed to. Give me a map or road signs, though, and I’m fine.

It’s not clear from the press release what penalty will be incurred for losing your way. Would losing your way completely be a serious fault and a test fail? What would happen if you took a wrong turn but navigated your way back onto the route?

The DSA justify the changes on the basis of independant research showing that with careful route design, candidates were able to complete the independent driving tasks without any significant impact on pass rates. I wonder what they considered significant, and how careful the planning has been across the myriad of test routes used up and down the country.

The DSA are also stopping the publication of test routes at the same time. Road Safety Minister Mike Penning 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.

“Stopping the publication of test routes will help to make sure that the driving test better reflects realistic driving conditions and will give new drivers the skills and confidence they need to stay safe on the roads.”

Naturally, driving instructors will all enter into the spirit of things and certainly won’t learn the test routes and take their trainees along them.

I’d like to be a fly on the wall when a candidate writes the directions down on a Post-It note and sticks it to the back of the sun visor, or programs the route into the GPS.

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