16/11/2011 13:57 | By Maria McCarthy

New ‘independent driving’ section of test explained

Woman passes her driving test (© Image © PA)

The driving test for cars, lorries, buses and motorcycles will be changing on 4 October 2010.

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) are introducing a new section covering 'independent driving'. This will last for about 10 minutes during which the candidate will have to drive without step-by-step instructions from the examiner.

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How will I be tested on 'independent driving'?
The candidate will be asked to pull over and the examiner will ask them to drive independently by one, or possibly a combination, of the following methods. The candidate won't be able to influence which method is chosen - that's up to the examiner.

1. Via road signs and markings - for example, the examiner will ask, 'For the next ten minutes please follow the road signs to the town centre.'

2. Via a series of three, or very occasionally four verbal directions given by the examiner (similar to how you might get directions from a passer-by) - for example, 'drive along then take the first left, straight ahead at the roundabout then second right'.

Driving test (© Image © PA)

When using verbal directions, the examiner will also show them a diagram before setting off.

If the candidate forgets the directions they are allowed to ask the examiner to confirm them as they drive along.

If road signs are obscured, say by an overhanging tree or a parked vehicle, the examiner will intervene and say, 'the sign's obscured here but you're meant to take the next left'.

The independent driving section isn't meant to test candidates navigating skills - if they take a wrong turn or get lost it won't count against them. It's more to do with letting them show their ability to drive safely without constant direction from their instructor or examiner.

Though of course if they get flustered and make a driving fault during this section, such as excessive hesitation at a junction then this will be marked as a fault.

Will the rest of the test stay the same?

BSM driving test car (© Image © Motoring Research)

No. The previous version of the driving test involved doing two manoeuvres, one of which would be a parking exercise (either bay or parallel park) and the other either a turn in the road or a reverse around a corner.

Now the test will only involve one manoeuvre, but candidates won't know which one. So even though most people have one they particularly struggle with (please, no, not the bay park...), they'll have to have practised all of them to test standard.

One in three candidates will also be asked to carry out an emergency stop.

Can I use a sat-nav during the test?

Will the test take longer or cost more?
The test will stay same length of approximately 40 minutes, as the addition of the 10 minutes of independent driving will be balanced out by the fact that one of the manouevres has been dropped.

The fees will remain the same at £62 for a weekday car test and £75 for a weekday evening or weekend car test.

Will this make the test more difficult?
During early trials of the new test, the pass rate did drop noticeably. But the DSA claim that the new version will have a similar pass rate to the current test (pass rates vary between test centres but the national average is about 45%).

People who struggle with manoeuvres might actually find the test easier, as there's less chance of failing by mounting the kerb during an ill-judged reverse around a corner.

A woman driving a car and smiling (© Image © PA)

However, some driving instructors do have reservations about the way the independent driving section has been designed and feel it might disadvantage people with special needs such as dyslexia or who have English as a second language.

What arrangements have been made for people with special needs, or those with English as a second language?
Although the basic driving test is the same for everyone, adjustments will be made for people with special needs.

For example, some dyslexic people have problems with the directions 'left and right' and find phrases such as 'your way' and 'my way' more useful. Dyslexic candidates will be be given a maximum of three verbal directions, rather than four.

Deaf candidates will be allowed to have a sign language interpreter with them and to choose which method of independent driving (for example, being shown the diagram) would work best for them.

People with English as a second language are allowed to have an interpreter with them during their test.

Are there any more changes in the pipeline?
Various changes that have been considered in the past include: raising the driving age to 18, introducing a section on motorway driving to the test, and introducing a compulsory classroom-based session on road safety.

However, at the moment it's likely that the DSA will let the 'independent driving' changes settle in before making any more.

What are your top tips for the new test section?

Man gets licence (© Image © PA)

Firstly, don't be shy about asking the examiner to repeat the directions at any time.

Secondly, remember that you're not being judged on your navigating skills, but on your driving - and your ability to drive safely must always come first.

So if, for example, you're driving along and realise you're in the wrong lane don't suddenly swerve into the correct one without warning. Only move over if you've checked your mirrors and it's safe to do so. If it isn't, because you've left things too late then just continue in the same lane and ask the examiner's advice for getting back on track.

Finally: good luck!

Maria McCarthy is the author of The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates - for extracts including Driving Instructors to Avoid and Myths about the Driving test, see her website at www.mariamccarthy.co.uk.

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04/10/2010 23:21

12th june my family and me.

we were waiting to turn right in my road.

a massive skid,i turned to my son and said watch out babe were ? smash....

the car was hit at very high speed in a 30 mph zone.

i was stationary,witnesses saw the crash happen.

they heard an almighty scream from the rear off my car.

my son was silent not moving at all.

my wife shaking badly.

i got out the car almost right away and was about to open my sons door when a ****y 19yr old got out and started shouting and gyrating his shoulders at the same time in a really ****y manner,walking towards me shouting what the f--k man i didn't see you.

at that point my partner got out to my son who wasn't moving at first.

i turned to the kid who hit me and said you bas---d run because if i catch you I'm gonna kill you with my bare hands for what you have done to us.

as i walked to him i went into a very very fast sprint after him,I'm sorry! look mate I'm sorry ok!

that just fuelled my system up even more inside.

i took a swing,but a bloke stopped me before i could do any real damage. i went to my son and cried holding him in my arms.even the paramedics all 3 though his neck was broken,until he came around to himself but remained very frightened hugging his mom to bits.

all of us were checked out and fire crews attended.

came to sort out as they were informed fluid was leaking from our cars.

id just put £65.00 in the fuel tank.

everyone agreed he was travelling some serious speed.

police arrived on the scene.

breathalysed us both.

both cleared by separate officers.

they measured his speed at just over 65 mph before impact.

his family turned up next they were away in Herefordshire setting up there caravan.

his mom and dad saw the damage to both cars.

his dad went mental and said oh **** not again that's the second time this car has been in a crash.

i asked why he said that he told me his other son did the same a year ago in that car and he had it repaired at a mates garage.

his dads said he was travelling at a tremendous speed as he accelerated after leaving an island further up the road. his dad said id be looked after ok.

he admitted liability as i had witnesses to it all.

payed out for my car was bought at £1500.00 all i got was £1000.00 a third short of what i payed 2 months earlier.

so this kid was driving his dads car on his dads policy despite his dad admitting responsibility for everything.

but police haven't charged the kid for being 35mph approx over the speed limit.

no instead they left him to get another red car and still drive but on his own insurance this time. no court cases,no fines,no disqualifications at all.


there has to be something done to sort this out once and they shouldn't be on parents insurance if they are forced to get there own they might realize some value.



05/10/2010 15:57

I passed my test nearly 5 years ago first time with only 3 minors (for not moving my head to look in rear view mirror, I did look but didn't make an obvious movement of looking)

 I personally think that they shouldn't drop the 2 manoeuvres down to 1. There are so many people that find parking a nightmare and I have actually seen many accidents relating to it.

 I also think that driving tests were basically about independant driving. You are taking instructions from an examiner but you are the one in control of the car and you only did 2 manoeuvres out of those 40 minuites.

  They should rise the driving age and think they should make an extentive driving course compulsory for drivers under a certain age. But still having all this in place does not stop idiotic drivers on the road.

 I cannot stand no indications or speeders that over take on a 30 mile an hour road (Not that I have many of those near me, I am used to doing 60 everywhere as live in the country.)

 They should do the normal driving test for everyone but if they have more than say 4 minors then they have to do an extensive drivers course before being given a full driving licence.



04/10/2010 21:24
How the hell am I meant to pass now! It's soo stupid, if the pass rate is dropping that means that basically more people are paying to rejected for a license, I can't beleive how unfair that is :/
04/10/2010 23:26

i am not looking 4ward 2 doing my 5th test in a couple of weeks yes 5th test its so frustrating i am failing on 1 serious all the bloody way.....no minors at all (well the odd 1 here and there)  for eg:- hit the kerb ,blocked a car coming out a junction (that 1 really hurts as there was no markings on the road to do a right turn i was apparently not 4ward enough) 34mph on a 30 rd (i accept that) using signals wen not needed and not using them wen i do (first fail) fingers crossed i do it next time lol

04/10/2010 23:20
This is ****; they just want to make it hard for people to passAngry
04/10/2010 22:26

i have no problem with the new changes as i feel i am pretty confident with the driving part of the test, its the theory i struggle with.

no matter how hard i study or how many times i do the test on my laptop when i get the test centre, failed twice by one or two marks.

which drives me insane, as i want to drive more than anything.

but it seems the more i try the more it doesnt work.


any suggestions or help for me would be insanely appreciated.



04/10/2010 22:21
i past my test a few years ago, i wish they learnt me the test on the motorway because the first few time i was terrified. i think they should raise the driving age up 20 as i think the young ones now are lazy, and they speed to much. the government should fix the ******* roads we pay enough road tax.
04/10/2010 22:02

I've never added to any of these discussions before but i'm always keen to see what others views are.. I'm 18 and I failed my test last week, only got one major on the way back to the test centre when I had to come down an extremely tight old fashioned street where to go check whether there was no cars coming I had to physically come out of my seat (may I add I am under 5 ft lol) to see there was nothing coming, by the time I sat back down got biting point checked it was safe to go etc etc when I crept out of the junction (still checking) some chav came flying down the street at- at least 45 in a 20mph zone which means I had to quickly check and reverse back in, yet I still failed because I pulled out when there was something coming.


I don't think it was fair AT ALL as things like this happen in everyday life, and I still made the correct checks and acted appropriately. Never mind, I do believe in safe driving etc etc and only passing people who show they can drive properly but I did just that and failed?


Attempted to get an explanation at the end of the test but apparently it was all to do with observation. Partly understand where he was coming from BUT I did act appropriately.


Got another test in a couple of weeks and haven't had any experience in this new area of the test and would like to know how I would react! My driving instructor was so sure I'd pass she didn't feel the need to go over the new section with me.


I'm feeling MORE nervous now as I have a mild form of dyslexia and take a while to process instructions from others and usually have to ask people to repeat things, yet there are peoples messages on this forum" oh if you're colour blind or dyslexic you shouldn't be able to drive" I disagree, and I wish people actually understood something before they write these things, it was very hurtful, got treated stupid pretty much most my school years I know i'm certainly not stupid as I have 3 A's in Highers and A B in Advanced Higher Biology. (: also I only found out I was dyslexic last Christmas.


Rant Over, but to cut to the jist of things i'm nervous for my test, believe its a good and bad thing : good as it shows what you're really like on your own; Bad as It's likely to create more nerves as someone is watching you, and It might make people with learning difficulties either more nervous than usual, or feel like they can't drive and just give up if they failed.


Would just like to wish everybody in a similar position good luck  & don't listen to people who obviously no nothing about dyslexia. (:

04/10/2010 21:39

I think its a logical and to be honest a good idea to introduce the new independant driving element to the test.


I'm 21, have been driving a car for nearly 4 years and I also ride a motorcycle too. There are too many drivers on the road who struggle to control their vehicles, or lack the skills to be able to drive in a safe manner for themselves, passengers, other road users and pedestrians.


Plus the fact roads are more congested than ever and car insurance continues to increase, anything to reduce the number of new drivers is a bonus :)

04/10/2010 19:15

I learnt how to drive when I turned 17 and after my first lesson my instructor told me to put in for my test.

Whilst waiting for my test date to come up I took lessons to further improve my driving skills.

I only had around 7 lessons costing about £10 each and in November 1984 I took and passed my test with flying colours.

I am one of the lucky ones that was able to learn quickly and pass first time but some people on the road that have somehow passed there tests really need to go for a lot of extra lessons, just to brush up on what they can't do.

There is a lot more cars on the roads these days with extra ones from abroad as well adding to the number and the amount of people that haven't got a clue is rising daily.

I think that you should stay with a driving instructor for as long as it takes to be able to drive at the speed limit and with lots of confidence before they can even think of putting in for a test.

04/10/2010 19:10
Allow me to interpret everybodies comments into a language the dokrer can understand:
get reel man yo well **** at drivin wiv yer car cuz ur a ****
04/10/2010 19:05
It appears that "thedokter46" never met a period or other punctuation mark and can only write in BOLD letters, also not too well acquainted with the rules for capitalization.
He should be required to have a BIG warning sign front and rear of his vehicle "Idiot-Driving" and to post notice 24 hours in advance of going driving.
I have over a million miles of driving experience in all types of conditions and on my last visit to the UK did quite well driving on what was the "wrong side of the road" for me plus following all the UK driving regulations; didn't need any long hours of instructions. Loved the "roundabouts" wish they would install them here in the USA and even more, I wish they would make it a law in all states that slow drivers have to move to the slower lanes and out of the way of faster drivers. Here in the USA, they hand out too many licenses to too many people that are not or only minimally qualified to operate a vehicle.

PS: I'm almost 70 and do very well operating my vehicle without holding up traffic, and following the regulations, I've driven everything from a Fiat 124 up to and including a 2 1/2 ton Lorry in the military. So, "thedokter46"  stick it up your nose, I hope you get runners in your hose, may an elephant trample on your toes, may a 1000 fleas infest your armpits, but most of all may the bird of paradise fly up your nose.
04/10/2010 18:54
Brand_m and all the rest of you guys.  I have drove every motorway in Britain and America.  I started of on two wheels, then progressed to eight, driven tanks and such. But toidays drivers, and roads are hel!!!!!   There shud always be another test for motorways, complete different bal game.  My oppinaion.  But drive save all of you
04/10/2010 18:34

Scarletrayne and thedokter 46, the speed limits are a maximum not a minimum, we don't have minimum speed limits in this country so people can drive at what speed they feel comfortable. Sounds like your the moron on the road dokter! Whats with everyone whinging that the legal driving age should be made higher? Just because your young doesn't mean you don't know how to drive, I can understand why you think that because there are some morons on the road but not everyone under 21 is a bad driver! So sick of stereotypes, I suppose you think young people are druggies and constant drinkers too! Don't just judge everyone by the minority of bad people out there!

04/10/2010 18:32
04/10/2010 18:28
Thanks for this, it'll be useful for when I'm taking mine in a few months :)
04/10/2010 17:47
dokter you spelt pedestrian wrong Open-mouthedOpen-mouthedOpen-mouthed and you're an idiot.
04/10/2010 17:24
Its not just the young people that are dangerous at driving, i swear I see more dangerous driving done by old people (around 70+). I don't think they know what the national speed limit is and they sit on roads doing barely 50mph. They are the ones going to cause more accidents because they aren't keeping up with the rest of the traffic! To be fair, we're not the most patient bunch of people in the world.. but old people tend to just take driving 'safely' too seriously, or are just ignorant. I think there should be a mandatory test when you reach 70 to take your test again, not just sign a piece of paper saying you can still see - coz tbh someone could just tell you where to sign!
04/10/2010 16:37

Fair point about including motorway driving on the test as the first time I did it was a very daunting experience indeed.  Admittedly I chose not to take the pass-plus sessions which do cover this as I didn't have a lot of money at the time.  However, here in Aberdeen, there isn't a motorway within 80 miles, so we wouldn't get much done in 40 minutes! Maybe a separate test before you are allowed on the Mway.

04/10/2010 16:36
I took my test years ago and the new test will certainly be much easier than when I took mine, they are obviously not testing to such high standards as they used to. That will account for the increase in accidents which results in higher Insurance premiums for us all. The minimum age should be 21 with restrictions on engine capacity until 25, that would then put an end to baby racers (male or female).
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