/ Motoring

The driving test should be even tougher

L-plate on blue car

The driving test is now much harder with the recent addition of an ‘independent driving’ section. But has this taken things far enough? Shouldn’t learners be required to practice on motorways and at night?

Anyone taking their driving test will now be required to successfully complete a 10-minute section of ‘independent driving’.

The examiner will ask candidates to navigate their way to a particular destination using road signs, without step-by-step help.

Although completing this task is not required to pass the test, it may prompt candidates to rack up the 16 standard driving faults that’ll result in a fail.

Independent driving essential for new drivers

While some learners may feel apprehensive about these changes to the L-test, I think the addition of independent driving is a good thing. After all, surely it’s precisely what all new drivers will be doing the moment they throw their L-plates away?

In fact, up to one in five new drivers have an accident in the first six months behind the wheel. And seven in ten report near misses. So this toughening of the L-test should be the beginning of some other much-needed changes.

Perhaps the whole test should be conducted as independent driving? And why not make it compulsory for learners to practise motorway, dual carriageway and night time driving, rather than leaving all of this to the voluntary Pass Plus scheme?

Drivers also need ‘refresher’ courses

And I don’t think the Driving Standards Agency should stop there. Having retaken my L-test alongside four other people for a Which? Car feature last summer, I realised just how easy it is for a person’s driving to get out-of-date.

I first took my test 26 years ago, and have been lucky enough to take some advanced driver training courses since then. But not all drivers have that advantage and this showed in the capabilities of the candidates retaking their test alongside me.

For instance, some had points deducted for old-fashioned driving techniques, such as using every single gear when changing up and down through the gearbox. While this wasn’t the main reason three of the five candidates failed, it certainly didn’t help.

So, while I wouldn’t want to put people through the stress of retaking their test (I was surprised at how nervous I was retaking mine) I do think it should be mandatory for all drivers to go on a refresher course every 10 years.

Do you think the driving test is tough enough? What driving requirements would you add?


I don’t think having a tougher test will make any real difference – It would only remove the most incompetent – It is easy enough to “bone up” for the test – The problem is the careless – inconsiderate – and lawless impatient driver –

Lets face it – we have over one MILLION uninsured drivers – removing those and their cars from the street would help a lot.

The we have those that want to remove Speed Cameras so they can go as fast as they like.

Then we have those wanting to remove traffic lights so they push through junctions as fast as possible ignoring road conditions.

Then we have those that think waiting one minute at a traffic light is too long.

No – You have got it wrong AGAIN!!

An addition.

Removal of licence for a year if you have two accidents in two years.with a retest.

Removal of licence for a year f you have two speeding tickets in two years.with a retest.

Removal of licence for a year if you contravene other traffic acts (except parking) in two years.with a retest.

More road surveillance with UNmarked traffic camera cars to catch more of those impatient inconsiderate and irresponsible car drivers I see every day when I drive my car.

I passed my driving test at 19 and then didn’t drive for the next ten years. It astounded me that after all that time, all I had to do was dust off my old driving licence, get in a car and drive. I hadn’t built up any driving experience after driving my test and was pretty-much a complete beginner again.

Luckily for all the other drivers on the roads, I was sensible and had some lessons! There should definitely be a compulsory refresher for people like me who haven’t been active drivers for a certain length of time.

I also agree that motorway driving should be part of the test. You spend ages learning about 3-point turns and clutch control, but when it comes to hammering down a motorway there’s no real tuition. I’ve always found that strange, it took me ages to gain confidence in motorway driving as it’s a completely different style of driving.


Your post made me smile.

My father passed his test in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) during WWII. Tests were done at local Police Stations. My father reported to the nearest one and said he wanted to take a test. The desk sergeant looked out through the open door at the car parked outside. “Did you drive that car here, sir?”. “Yes”, my father replied. “You’ve passed” said the desk sergeant.

And that licence would still have been completely valid here in the UK, seventy years later.

Sensibly, my father took lessons and passed a UK driving test in 1960. He died in the 1990s.

I passed my motorcycle test at 16 – my car test at 17 – bought a car at 23 – got in and drove it without a problem. In fact drove it for 55 years without accident or insecurity .

But I have seen greater and greater numbers of bad drivers around – these are not learners – or new drivers – just bad divers on the road. I’m sure the vast majority of them would actually pass the test – then totally ignore the behaviour used to pass the test – just become bad drivers again – Nothing to do with the test – and unless the test included a very long psychiatric test will not do anything.to curb this tendency.

In all honesty – I found driving on motorways far easier than driving in heavy traffic – never had problems in my confidence – just problems with bad drivers – you know the ones that still speed – use mobile phone – retune their radios – turn round to chat with the back seat passenger.

All nothing to do with the test – but everything to do with common sense and obeying the Law!!!!!!!!!

I do think there should be a test for Long term migrants – not those on holiday – to ensure they know and obey ALL the differences between the two sets of traffic laws.

Sophie Gilbert says:
8 October 2010

The current driving test plainly isn’t tough enough, given how many bad drivers there are on the road, and I don’t see how 10 miserable minutes of “independent driving” during the test is going to prepare anyone for anything. I would also agree with Richard that punishment for bad driving is at the moment ridiculously mild. And I do wonder whether the minimum age at which you can drive shouldn’t be raised.

The driving test is not designed to *create* an expert driver – but to decide whether you are competent to drive and have read and ‘understood’ the highway code.
If you feel “lacking in confidence” about a part of road system – the answer is simple – go along to your local friendly driving school – explain your problem – and they would be happy to devise a few lessons to cover the problem.

It is your responsibility – not the government’ s- or your test centre responsibility – to be competent. The highway code gives all the instructions needed to use the UK highways properly..

Any test will not totally ensure that you will feel confident – experience gives you that confidence. Any form of longer test would require some form of long psychiatric sociological physiological test to be effective .

It is obvious too many drivers conveniently “forget” the highway code after passing the test – no test will stop that – Harsh punishments would.. I honestly felt the driving test was adequate to test my competence.

This is a test – as I have written two comments – neither appeared

We’re really sorry Richard. We’ve had a little glitch that’s been keeping comments from being approved. Hopefully all of yours are up now!

I don’t think it is the test as such – it isn’t designed to *create* an expert driver – just that the driver is competent to drive the vehicle – and has read and ‘understood’; the highway code.

If you don’t feel “confident’ about a particular part of the road system – The answer is simple – Go to your local friendly driving school – explain your problem – they would be happy to devise a few lessons to cover your problem.

It is your responsibility – not the Government – or testing centre – to be competent.

Far too many drivers – after passing the test – “forget” the highway code . No test will stop this – Harsh penalties will.

I felt my test was completely adequate. for all areas of the road system

Kevin says:
8 October 2010

My 19 year old Son has just passed his test. In addition to the official lessons, we bought a small car for him to practice in.
I not only gave him point to point driving experience, without giving directions, but we also covered night driving in all conditions, including driving round the peak district at night in the rain, which many an “experienced” driver would be out of their depth. Plus driving at higher speeds on dual carriage ways.
I wanted to know he could cope with most driving conditions within his own comfort zone and for my peace of mind. We have also since covered motorway driving. I also made sure he could make a controlled stop very early in his driving experience, something the driving school did.t cover until the week before his test.
Yes there is pass plus, but the discount on his insurance was far less than the cost of the course.
We know experienced drivers who try and avoid right turns, or driving at night or in the rain.
Maybe like others say a refresher course may help.
Many experienced driving standards are far worse than many a young driver.

A periodic test, say every five years, and also a medical examinaton at the same time would sort some people out.

My daughter drove on a non-public area by herself after I was satisfied that she was not going to crash the car and that improved her confidence. She passed her test first time.

I think the test should be split into two parts.

The first part should be easier than the current test. My heart goes out to those trying to pass nowadays – the traffic, the cut and thrust, the aggression, all make life especially tough for timid newcomers. Having demonstrated a basic competence to control the car safely, they should be “let out on the roads” to get some experience. Some restrictions will be needed – zero blood alcohol limit, no driving between 9pm and 1am, no more than one passenger, etc.

Within 12 months they are required to take a second part test. This should be tougher than the current test, more in line with the RoSPA and Institute of Advanced Motorists tests.

Existing drivers can keep their “full” licences on grace. But any proven infringement of motoring law means their licence automatically reverts to a “first part” licence. And they must keep to first-part restrictions; and pass a second-part test within 12 months to continue driving.

Andy says:
8 October 2010

I’m an ADI and have been training learners for 7 years. I think the current DSA tests (theory and practice) are good but blunt instruments for ensuring that those who find driving ‘doesn’t come naturally’ get sufficient training. Driving is a serious and a dangerous business, not an everyday right as some would like to assert. The difficulty with these tests is that they don’t measure ‘attitude’. Making pass plus mandatory within the first year would help by doing a check on how a new driver’s attitude is shaping up. I think the police need to be more proactive and also covert in catching and prosecuting motorists who behave badly and then courts need to take a much tougher line with the worst offenders. Eg someone who causes death by dangerous driving goes to jail and then is NEVER allowed to drive again; 12 points = not just a year on the bus, but automatic reversion to a provisional licence and the need to re-take an extended driving test. I would also scrap the concession whereby EU and some other citizens are excused the need to take the UK tests. Our UK roads are different from elsewhere so it makes sense that all who drive on them should be checked to the same standard.

Dave D.S.A. A.D.I. says:
8 October 2010

When someone passes thier Driving Test they are at the legal minimum allowed to drive on the road unsupervised.Sadly many people then drop below this level, and they do not improve untill they for whatever reason take an advanced driving course or they have to retake the Test due to an accumulation of points. Many people forget just how much pressure is on a person trying to pass the test, and many take the sight of an L Plate as a challenge to get past at the earliest opportunity or to drive as close to the boot as is insanely possible.The test is all we have to judge a persons competance on the road, and I feel that everyone should undertake it every ten years to maintain the minimum standard, and anyone convicted of a serious driving offence should automatically have to retake an extended test.

Amiralda says:
8 October 2010

I passed my test about 6 year ago. It took me two years to learn to overcome my fears and over a year to undergo 8 driving tests before I passed at last. My fear of driving was rather overwhelming as in the course of my job, I see how people involved in traffic offences and accidents, are affected and affecting the others. I also took 3 advanced courses after I passed my test.

Although the instructors were tough, and that is fair, I did not feel pasing the test was about real driving. I could not navigate my way while driving and I kept getting lost. It is a skill that instructors do not teach and the test does not include. I was also unable to get on motorwasy or drive at night.

I asked an advanced driving instructor to give me lessons on motorways, in bad wheather, rural areas and at night so that to make sure I drive safely.

I strongly feel that taking a course every few years is a good idea but it should not be suject to another test. It is not fair to loose somone’s licence unless an offence is committed.

Gloria Edwards says:
8 October 2010

You can’t test everything nor will it make people obey the law or highway code. As has been pointed out the test is only there to ensure that the driver is competent to control a car on the road. Experience is up to you.

Yes, drivers should be made to take retests particularly if they break the law and if they are involved in an accident for which they are to blame. Also if it can be shown that they are incompetent or driving unreasonably there is also a case for making them take the test before being allowed to get behind the wheel again.

If someone is guilty of disregarding the rules of the road they should have to take the written test. It might just help to curb their anti social behavior.

As an ex Fire Service driving instructor I’ve always thought that a learner driver is allowed drive a high powered car on a motorway immediately after passing his test is crazy.
This was discussed on numerous occasions, the decision being absolute lunacy, the general feeling being :- a new driver should display green L plates for 6 months and only allowed after that to be allowed on motorways and at night with a competent driver.
I’ve had 28 years as a 1st line appliance driver.

The Driving Standards Agency has now made the driving theory test harder. It’s not going to publish the multiple choice questions and answers used in the test and from January 2012 will create a new test using unpublished questions. Will this make new drivers understand the theory rather than simply memorising answers? http://www.which.co.uk/news/2010/11/dsa-tightens-driving-theory-test-questions-235063/

Sophie Gilbert says:
2 November 2010

Let’s hope so. I really do think that the test is far too easy to pass at the moment.

Many experienced drivers believe that they are safe drivers because they have not had accidents, though accidents are often avoided by prompt action by other motorists.

Some old people carry on driving when they are no longer fit to do so, and definitely need a re-test and regular medical examinations. Those that pass could be rewarded by lower insurance premiums because they are likely to be among the safest drivers on the road. In fact being prepared to take a periodic retest is the sort of attitude that any sensible driver should have.

I had a look at the existing theory test questions and was amazed to see reference to hand-signals. Maybe these were useful when cars had trafficators but reliable, conspicuous, flashing indicators have been in use for over fifty years, and I cannot remember when I last saw a car driver using hand signals (other than rude finger signals that are definitely not in the Highway Code).

Perhaps the new theory test will reflect that we are now in the 21st century.

@wavechange – hand-signals – we may have flashing indicators, but knowing the hand signals when they fail means you can safely get home or to a garage to have the problem rectified.

Don’t forget there are still many vehicles legally on the road where the only indication is by hand signal and none of those vehicles require road tax either as I recall.

I know my hand signals but last time I used them was when I took a motorcycle test in 1975. I have always carried spare bulbs but never needed to replace an indicator bulb. I believe that no-one should be allowed on the road if they cannot do this sort of job, though car manufacturers sometimes make it more difficult than it should be. I appreciate that indicators can fail for other reasons than a blown bulb.

By all means keep hand signals in the test but I believe that there are so many other things that the 21st century motorist has to cope with that they are not a priority.

You have a point about vehicles without indicators, but these are much less common than they used to be. If you are stuck behind an old grey Fergie the driver usually uses their left hand (rather than the approved signal) to indicate that they are turning left, and arm waving to indicate that they are slowing down is hardly necessary.

Some 15 years ago I passed my Advance Motorist test, and a couple of years ago I was reassessed. Interestingly, the police driving instructor said that if anyone were to drive as an advanced motorist on the test that a learner would normally take, they would fail it! This is because a learner test is highly weighted to safety for an inexperienced driver, whereas an advanced motorist has more experience and can safely take other actions (e.g. not necessarily putting on the handbrake every time you come to a halt).