Learning to drive: the Driving Standards Agency (GB) launches consultation paper.

CIECA’s member organisation in Great Britain, the DSA, has published a Consultation Paper called Learning to Drive, which sets out proposals for a major review of the way people learn to drive.
The paper, which can be downloaded from www.dsa.gov.uk, proposes a number of changes to driver training and testing in Britain.
The context in terms of road accidents
In overall terms, Britain is one of the leaders in road safety, with the fifth lowest casualty rate in the world. However, around 16% more drivers aged 16-19 are killed today, compared with fifteen years ago, and one in five novice drivers has some kind of accident within six months of qualifying. Young adults in the UK have a higher road accident fatality rate than most other EU member states.
The current training and testing regime
Learner car drivers must have a provisional licence before they can drive on the road. The licence is subject to conditions - learners must display an ‘L’ or ‘D’ plate, and must be supervised by an experienced driver. They are not allowed to drive on motorways. Apart from this, there is no requirement to learn or train in a particular way. Learners are not required to take any professional lessons, or any minimum amount of practice. Nevertheless, most learners spend a long time preparing for their practical test. A recent study showed an average learner pays for 52 hours of lessons, and that 99% of learners have at least one lesson. 55% of learners take private practice (e.g. with a parent).
In order to drive solo, learners must pass a theory test and computer-based Hazard Perception Test, as well as a practical driving test (which includes an eyesight check). The current pass-rate for the practical test is 44% and the pass-rate for the combined theory and hazard perception test is 67%. Research undertaken in 2001-2005 found that those who passed the practical test had a mean average of 67 hours of total driving experience (substantially more than in most other countries) but the pass rate at the practical test remains low.
Having passed the test, novice drivers enter a 2 year probationary period in which their licence can be withdrawn if they accumulate 6 penalty points (rather than the norm of 12 points).
Proposals for more effective learning, training and testing
As part of the consultation paper, the DSA is keen to receive feedback on a range of proposals that it hopes will lead to safer novice drivers. These proposals include:
  • Theory Test: introducing case studies in the theory test in order to assess not just the knowledge of the candidate but his/her understanding of the theory and its application in practice.
  • Hazard Perception Test: introducing 3D animation, which is less expensive and more flexible than the current real video clips
  • Practical test: making the test more effective and realistic by bringing in independent driving and situational judgement into the test (similar to recent measures introduced in Netherlands and Sweden).
  • Practical test: a new marking system for giving better feedback in the test.
  • Offering the opportunity for testing in segments, rather than taking the test in one go, allowing for a more focused learning approach towards specific skills and abilities.
  • New guidelines in the form of a syllabus for driving instructors and accompanying persons, as well as a workbook for learner drivers to track their progress
  • Encouragement to practise in different conditions, such as at night and in bad weather
  • Information for learners on the quality of driving instructors, as well as better training for driving instructors
  • Introducing a test read