Using a sat nav and not having to do the dreaded three point turn in the driving test sounds like a dream for learner drivers. In fact, one imagines that many L-plate drivers are tooting their horns with joy (though only to warn other road users of their presence of course). This dream could become reality in a proposed shake up of the 80-year-old UK driving test by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). Indeed it’s already become the case for some. A trial conducted at a handful of test centres in the UK saw a Scottish teenager recently passing his test while using a sat nav for part of the time.
Why sat nav testing?
The use of sat nav testing is the biggest change proposed since the advent of theory testing in 1996, and is designed to reflect the changing methods of driving. Sat navs are recognised as a common part of motoring for many and their use in the driving test is designed to ensure they’re deployed safely once drivers head out onto the roads alone.
The driving test examiner loads a route into the sat nav and the candidate then follows it and is assessed accordingly. The candidate is judged on how competent they are at responding to the voice commands and keeping their focus on the road rather than using the screen too often.
The changing driving test
Since its inception in 1935, the driving test has been revised periodically to reflect changes in driving. Hand signals were dropped from the test in 1975, a video hazard perception test came in during 2002 and the ‘show me’ ‘tell me’ vehicle safety questions were introduced in 2003. As more and more of us went online, the way we learnt the rules of the road changed – with websites replacing traditional books.
Along with changes seeing the possible introduction of sat nav use as part of the test, the dropping of the three point turn and reversing round a corner would be replaced by common manoeuvres such as reversing out of a parking bay. Other revisions to the test could include candidates being asked safety questions while on the move, and being asked to use other controls and switches – for example, turning the heated rear window on and off while maintaining their concentration.
While learner drivers might rejoice at being able to use a sat nav and not having to spend hours practicing their three point turns in quiet cul de sacs, others aren’t sure it’s a good idea. An RAC director cautioned against removing basic manoeuvres from the test, telling the BBC: “We rely on our sat navs but they are not infallible, and it is when they have led us down a dead end that we need to know how to do a three point turn.” The DVSA says that, along with the trial recently conducted, there will be full public consultations before firm changes are made.