Northern Ireland make independent driving an integral part of the driving test

05.07.2011. Environment Minister Alex Attwood today launched the most significant addition to the driving test since its introduction fifty years ago. The change, known as independent driving, will mean that candidates will be required to spend ten minutes driving without step by step instructions from the examiner. They will be given the destination they need to go to and then they will have to negotiate how to get there themselves.
The aim of independent driving is to assess the candidate's ability to drive safely whilst making decisions independently and ultimately produce safer drivers. Independent driving will be introduced into the driving tests from Monday 27 June 2011. Alex Attwood said: “The change I am launching today, while a significant addition to the familiar driving test, should hold no fear for candidates. In fact the new test reflects what they want. It is designed to ensure that novice drivers, once they acquire a licence, have the skills, knowledge and confidence to be able to drive on their own. Once they pass the test novice drivers will have to make their own decisions regarding when to drive, where to drive to, how to get there, and who to drive with whilst driving safely – these are all issues that will be addressed in the new independent driving section of the test. Independent driving assessment will encourage a sense of responsibility, awareness and individual decision-making amongst learner drivers, in order to prepare them when driving on their own.”
Research has shown that many people who have passed their test still lack confidence to drive independently because they are used to step by step instructions. The Chairman of the Driving Instructors stakeholder group, JJ Doherty said: “This is a very positive development and gives the candidate the opportunity to experience what it is like to drive unaccompanied by presenting a realistic future driving requirement as an integral part of their test."
Notes to editors:
  1. At the moment the examiner gives directions for the duration of the entire test. However, from 27 June 2011 the candidate will be asked to follow traffic signs themselves for the following ten minutes to get to a destination or if unfamiliar with the route the examiner will show them a diagram or give them some short verbal instructions. Candidates can ask for a reminder as they drive.
  2. The Driving Test was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1956.
  3. Environment Minister Alex Attwood will launch independent driving on Wednesday 15 June 2011, Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) HQ (Belfast MOT centre) Balmoral Road, Boucher Road, Belfast, at 10.45am.
  4. All media enquiries should be directed to Philip Maguire on 07788108 657 or DOE Communications on 028 9054 0003. Out of hours please contact the duty press officer via pager 07699 715440 and you call will be returned.