Driving test changes announced

New proposals to reform the way people learn to drive and how they are tested have today been announced by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly.

Road deaths and serious injuries have fallen by 33% since the mid 1990s, but the casualty rate for young drivers has not changed. One in five people have an accident within six months of passing their test, and another 70% report near- misses in the same period. Alongside this newly-qualified drivers and their passengers account for one in five of all car deaths in Britain.

The aim of the consultation is to create safer drivers for life by strengthening the current learning and testing procedures, and creating a culture of extended and advanced learning. This follows extensive discussions with young people, employers, driving instructors and the insurance industry.

A foundation course in safe road use for under 17 years olds will be piloted in schools and colleges in Scotland from this Autumn. This will lead to a qualification that will be available across Great Britain.
For the first time there will be a syllabus to ensure more effective and comprehensive training is offered to learner drivers. This will set out more clearly the necessary steps to driving safely – beginning with the basics of car control, progressing to skills such as driving in difficult weather or at night and culminating in ensuring driver awareness is enhanced, to help novice drivers predict the intentions of other road users. This will help more learners to pass first time as safe and responsible drivers.

We want to create a culture in which the driving test is a milestone towards lifelong learning. Employers and insurers should have greater confidence in the driving abilities of those who have undertaken further training, and so we will work with them to develop proposals for post-test courses and qualifications that produce safer drivers, and that they are prepared to reward. Examples of this could include a new advanced training qualification, a course in motorway driving or vocational qualifications such as for van drivers.

Alongside this the driving test will be revised to place less emphasis on mechanical manoeuvres and allow examiners to properly assess the full range of a candidate’s abilities. An assessment of their ability to drive independently and test to judge awareness of road safety issues will be introduced.

Speaking to young drivers at the Driving Standards Agency training centre in Cardington, Ruth Kelly said: “Every year more than 750,000 people pass their driving test. New drivers are keen to gain the freedom driving offers them to access further education, jobs or keep in touch with family and friends.

“But too many new drivers are involved in road accidents and are not properly prepared for driving alone. It is time for a new approach to learning to drive. We must make sure that novice drivers are safe drivers when they have passed their test. We must also create an expectation of lifelong learning, so that people continue advanced learning after their test.

“That is why I am publishing proposals which offer new drivers more opportunities to learn both before and after the test, including at school.

“Those who undertake extra training will not only be safer drivers, but will have the added incentive that they could see a financial reward in terms of lower insurance premiums.”

More detail on the proposals in the consultation is below:

In greater detail

The Department for Transport announced plans in February 2007 to consult on fundamental reform of driver training and testing as part of the second review of its road safety strategy.

The review promised a new framework for driver education, training, testing and lifelong learning, including developing and refreshing skills, remedial training, work-related driving and support for drivers at various stages of their driving career to develop and maintain safe driving for life.

Key facts about learning to drive (all for Great Britain)

Main points in reform proposals

The Department proposes to reform the way people learn to drive, and the way they are tested. This means:

Safer and better newly-qualified drivers will see as a result:

Timing

Proposals for changing the test

Improved learning and better information

The Driving Standards Agency will:

Additional learning and qualifications