Blackpool gearing up to trial new driving test

Learner drivers in Blackpool could be the first in the country to trial major changes to the driving test, it has been announced.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) announced last year that 20 test centres around the country would be used to assess new revisions to the practical driving exam.

Of those, the test centre on Blackpool’s Warbreck Hill Road could be the first to introduce the revamped test as early as April, with trials continuing until the end of the year.

Current test deemed ‘out of date’

The DVSA announced plans to overhaul and update the practical exam after it was deemed that many of the test manoeuvres are now out of date and could be replaced with more practical exercises.

John Guest, chairman of the Blackpool and District Approved Driving Instructors Association, said: “We were asked earlier on this year by the Driving Standards Agency if we would be interested in trialling the changes.

“Instructors met last month to vote on implementing the plans. If learner drivers pass the test it will count as a full pass. It is hoped the changes will focus on more realistic, everyday manoeuvres.”

One of the major changes suggested for the alternative exam includes the axing of the traditional three-point turn, plus the addition of using satellite navigation systems as an alternative to reading road direction signs.

Reversing around a corner will also be dropped from the syllabus, while other replacement manoeuvres include parking the car in a parking space before reversing out and continuing to drive.

Vehicle safety checks, often referred to as ‘show me tell me’ questions, will now be asked while driving as well as at the start of the test in order to further assess learners’ knowledge.

Learners given a choice

Mr Guest said that the trials will only apply to learners who opt for it, but a range of different ages and backgrounds will be needed to compare how the new test fares against the traditional exam.

“Driving instructors who sign up to take part in the trial will not see all pupils involved,” he said. “This is because they need pupils in all categories – young, old, male, female, disabled, non-British.

“They seem to be saying that the main point of the new features, using a sat nav and asking questions on the move is to cause distractions which the pupil will 
come across when driving alone.”

Driving instructor Brian Marshall said that he’s welcoming of the new plans, noting that things have needed to change with the test after the theory part was updated recently.

He said: “There is only 40 minutes to assess how good a driver is. The theory test was changed a few years ago and I think these changes will make it more and more like real life driving.”