Resort is in gear to trial driving test changes

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Losing your ‘L plates’ is every learner driver’s dream, but major changes could be on the way for the driving test – with Blackpool one of the first test centres to trial the measures.

Plans to overhaul the driving test have been revealed by the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency – with the resort’s test centre at Warbreck Hill Road one of 20 throughout the UK picked to trial plans to revamp the practical exam.

John Guest, chairman of the Blackpool and District Approved Driving Instructors Association, said the new measures would be introduced for some drivers in April and continue until the end of the year.

He added: “We were asked earlier on this year by the Driving Standards Agency if we would be interested in trialling the changes.

“Instructors met last month to vote on implementing the plans. If learner drivers pass the test it will count as a full pass.

“It is hoped the changes will focus on more realistic, everyday manoeuvres.”

Features of the new test include the pupil following a pre-set satellite navigation guided route and the turn in the road and reverse round a corner taken out of the syllabus completely.

Manoeuvres will be added to the test, including pulling up on the right and then reversing back two car lengths, as well as driving into a parking bay and then reversing out before carrying on with the rest of the drive.

One of the ‘show me tell me questions’ – also known as vehicle safety checks – will be asked at the start of the test and another while driving.

Any eventual changes to the practical test would be subject to full public consultation.

Mr Guest said the trial tests, organised by transport consultancy group TRL, will not apply to every pupil, but likely a mix of ages and backgrounds. He added: “Driving instructors who sign up to take part in the trial will not see all pupils involved.

“TRL will decide which of the pupils will be suitable. This is because they need pupils in all categories – young, old, male, female, disabled, non-British.

“They seem to be saying that the main point of the new features, using a sat nav and asking questions on the move is to cause distractions which the pupil will
come across when driving alone.”

Driving instructors will book pupils onto the test if they wish to take part, with those who do not continuing with the current test.

Fylde coast driving instructor Brian Marshall welcomed the plans, adding “things needed to change.”

He said: “There is only 40 minutes to assess how good a driver is.

“The theory test was changed a few years ago and I think these changes will make it more and more like real life driving.

“All driving instructors teach these manoeuvres as it is.

“Obviously these are trials but looking to the future something which could be added is regular assessments for drivers every five years to maintain standards.”