The Conservatives are planning a shake up of the driving test. The plan would have learner drivers undertake manoeuvres, such as the turn–in–the–road (three point or otherwise) and reversing round the corner, prior to an actual test. The test itself could then be taken if the manoeuvres had already been passed. The Tories believe that this would ‘free–up’ 10 minutes of test time to enable more concentration on driving and its associated hazards.
The current test’s inclusion of these manoeuvres has sound reasoning behind it. You have to be aware of all of the hazards around you while performing them, failure to take notice of other road users and pedestrians while under current test conditions normally results in being marked down or automatic failure. These parts of the test are difficult in comparison with other parts, having to combine both the skill of controlling the car and awareness of the environment around the vehicle. To separate this out from the rest of the test will weaken the skills of those that would be driving away from the test centres without ‘L’ plates. This is just asking for trouble in the years ahead as the roads get more crowded and cars get faster.
Both parties are right to be concerned with the number of deaths caused by those who have recently passed their tests. But in the majority of the 300 deaths in accidents involving new drivers speed has a tendency to be the primary cause. The Conservative plan will not root out the over–confident driver they are concerned about, it will merely make it easier for all to pass the driving test. There is little that can be done to curb the excess and bravado of youth save for the shared experience of the consequences of an accident. But an accident where speed is a major factor tends to be fatal, and it’s sometimes very difficult to learn from that.