From 4th October 2010, learner drivers will be tested on independent driving as part of the practical driving test.
During their test, candidates will have to drive for about 10 minutes, either following a series of directions, following traffic signs, or a combination of both.
To help candidates understand where they're going, the examiner may show them a diagram.
It doesn't matter if candidates don't remember every direction, or if they go the wrong way - that can happen to the most experienced drivers
If the candidate goes off-route during the independent driving section, the examiner will get the candidate back on route and continue with the independent driving section wherever possible. The test won't be terminated.
If the candidate looks like taking a wrong turning, the examiner will control the situation as they do now and preferably step in before the candidate goes off route. If that's not possible, the examiner will help the candidate get back on route as soon as possible by guiding them with normal directions.
Independent driving is not a test of the candidate's orientation skills. If the candidate goes off route, but does not commit a fault, there's nothing to assess. Any faults that did occur would be assessed under the circumstances at the time - as usual. There is no change to assessment.
There will be times when, due to poor or obscured signage, the examiner may have to intervene. If this happens the examiner would say, 'There are no signs here. Just continue ahead please' and then, 'Now, carry on following the signs to ......'
If the candidate asks for a reminder of the directions, the examiner will be happy to confirm them. Driving independently means making your own decisions and, just like when driving with friends, this includes deciding when it's safe and appropriate to ask for confirmation on where you're going.
Independent driving is designed to test the learner's ability to drive unsupervised and make decisions without guidance and in unfamiliar contexts. DSA is therefore taking the opportunity to review the appropriateness of current route publication practices.
The independent driving section of the test is approximately 10 minutes when you will be asked to drive making your own decisions. A sat nav gives directions in much the same way as the driver trainer, or the examiner, so it's not appropriate to use for independent driving.
From October, car test candidates (category B) will have to complete one reversing manoeuvre rather than two. The manoeuvre will be selected at random by the examiner from:
Turning in the road
Reversing around a corner
Reverse parking (either on the road, or into a bay)
An emergency stop exercise will still be conducted on one in three tests.