Your Complete Guide to the Driving Test - Including New Testing Rules from December 4th, 2017

Your Complete Guide to the Driving Test - Including New Testing Rules from December 4th, 2017

Since 1935 we’ve all been doing it … well those of us on the road anyway! It’s the year the driving test was first introduced. Here is your complete guide to all things driving test related including information on recent updates...

Over the course of a year around 1.6 million practical driving tests are taken in the UK. Of these only 47% will pass and join the 45 million other drivers on the UK's roads. If you are male you will need 36 lessons on average and 1.8 attempts to pass. For women the average number of lessons is 52 with 2.1 attempts needed to pass.

Driving test updates

There have been several updates to the driving test over the years. The most notable was the introduction of the separate theory test in 1996. Since then there has only been a small change to the practical test in 2010 when the independent driving section was added.

Over 5 years 3% of all reported road accidents cited ‘learner or driver inexperience' as a contributory factor. In response to this the Government is making changes to the existing test. The changes are designed to better prepare drivers for real life driving situations and ensure they are ready for driving alone without guidance. The new driving test rules will come into effect on December 4th, 2017 and will be as follows:

  • The independent driving section will be increased from the existing 10 minutes to 20 minutes.
  • The ability to use a sat nav will be tested with the examiner providing the equipment. The sat nav used will be a standard TomTom Start 52 model. The examiner will set the route. One in Five practical driving tests will not use a sat nav and instead the learner will be asked to follow road signs.
  • Turn in the road and reversing round a corner will no longer be tested. Instead learners can be asked to demonstrate any of the following 3 manoeuvres: 1 - A parallel park at the side of the road. 2 - Using a parking bay. Reversing into a bay then driving out, or driving into a parking bay and reversing out - the examiner will tell the learner which they would like them to do. 3 - Stop and rejoin traffic. Learner will be required to pull up on the right hand side of the road, reversing back for two car lengths and then rejoin the traffic.

  • 'Show me' 'tell me' questions will remain. 'Tell me' questions will be asked before the learner starts driving, but 'show me' questions will now be asked while the learner is driving during the course of the practical test. Examples include - 'show me how to turn on the demister', 'show me how to wash the windscreen'.

It is hoped the new practical test will better prepare drivers for real life driving situations and ensure they are ready for driving alone without guidance. It will also reflect the growing trend to use technology as 52% of drivers now report using some form of sat nav so learning to use these gadgets safely is vital.

"Great Britain's roads are among the safest in the world.  But there is scope to do more to keep road users safe - particularly newly qualified drivers.  Making sure the test better assesses a driver's ability to drive safely and independently is part of our strategy to help every driver through a lifetime of driving."

- Gareth Llewellyn, Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency Chief Executive

How to get on the road!

Get Your Provisional Licence

Before you can get behind the wheel you will need to apply for your provisional driving licence. You can apply for this any time after you turn 15 and 9 months old, but it will only be valid for learning to drive a car once you are 17.

You can apply for your provisional licence online via you must:

  • be able to read a number plate from 20m away
  • be able to provide addresses for the last 3 years
  • be able to provide proof of identity i.e a passport. If you have a valid UK biometric passport you will not need to provide any identity documents.
  • have details of your National Insurance number - if known.
  • be able to pay £34 via a debit/credit card

Your provisional licence will then take around a week to arrive. Once you have received it, and have turned 17, you can get behind the wheel providing you are being supervised by a qualified driving instructor or a person (family or friend) who has held a driving licence for at least 3 years and is over the age of 21.

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Always remember you will need insurance in any car you are driving. If you are in an instructor's car, they will have special insurance to cover learner drivers. If you are driving in a friend or family members car you will need to be added onto the insurance. It is illegal to drive a vehicle without insurance, you risk a fixed penalty of £300, 6 points on your licence and the police have the power to destroy a vehicle that is being driven without insurance.

Pass Your Driving Theory Test

You will need to pass your driving theory test before you can book your practical driving test. There are many free and online resources that help you prepare for your theory test. The theory test currently costs £23 and can be completed at various locations across the UK. You can search for your nearest centre and book your theory test online via the website you will need:

  • your provisional driving licence number
  • an email address - if you do not have an email address you will need to book over the phone
  • a credit/debit card to make the £23 payment

The theory test is taken on a computer and is a single test which is split up into two separate parts.

Part 1 - Multiple Choice Questions

The first part of the test involves answering 50 questions on the highway code. Various answers will be given for each question and you will need to select the correct one. You will have 57 minutes to complete this section and will need 43 correct answers to pass.

Part 2 - Hazard Perception

This part of the theory test involves watching 14 video clips in which you will be required to identify any developing hazards, by clicking the mouse. Each video clip will contain one hazard, with one of the clips containing two hazards. The earlier you spot a hazard the more points you will be awarded. If you do not spot the hazard you will receive 0 points, if you spot the hazard at the earliest possible moment you will receive the maximum of 5 points. This means the maximum score you could achieve is 75 points and you will need 44 points or more to pass this part of the test.

You will know immediately if you have passed your theory test or not. It is only when you have passed that you will be able to take your practical driving test.

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Take Your Practical Driving Test

The practical driving test currently costs £62 on a weekday and £75 if you would like to take your test on a weekend. The test can be booked online via the website. To book you will need:

  • Your UK driving licence number from your provisional licence
  • A credit/debit card to make payment
  • Your driving instructors personal reference number to check if they are available if you would like them to accompany you to your driving test.

When you arrive on the day for your practical test you will need to take with you: your theory test pass certificate and your provisional driving licence. The test will take around 40 minutes and there are five areas your examiner will be assessing;

  1. Sight Check - you must be able to read a number plate from 20m away. Your examiner will ask you to do this first. If you fail this test you will not be allowed to go on and complete your driving test.
  2. Show me, tell me - The 'tell me' questions will be asked before you start driving and will test your knowledge. For example, 'tell me how you would check the engine has sufficient oil'. The 'show me' questions will take place while you are driving. You will be asked to show the examiner actions such as 'show me how to turn on the demister' or 'show me how to wash the windscreen'.
  3. General driving ability - the examiner will be checking abilities such as doing a hill start, indicate correctly, check mirrors at the appropriate times and could even ask you to perform an emergency stop.
  4. Reversing your vehicle - you will be asked to complete any of the following three manoeuvres a parallel park, using a parking bay, pulling up to a stop on the right, reversing two car lengths and then rejoining traffic.
  5. Independent driving - in this section you will spend 20 minutes driving using road signs or following instruction from a sat nav. The examiner will set up the sat nav for you or will tell you where he would like you to drive to following signs on the road.

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You will be told when you return to the examination centre whether you have passed or failed. To pass the practical component of the driving test you will need to have displayed no more than 15 minor errors and not committed any serious or dangerous driving faults.

If you have passed, you can legally drive straight away, provided you have updated your insurance from learner status.

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