The pupil 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 pupil won’t be able to influence which method is chosen as 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 which are 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 take the second left’.
When using verbal directions, the examiner will also show them a diagram prior to setting off.
If the pupil forgets the directions then they are allowed to ask the examiner to repeat them as they continue to drive. If road signs are obscured, say by an overhanging tree or a parked vehicle, the examiner should intervene and say, ‘the sign’s obscured here but you’re meant to take the next right’.
The independent driving section isn’t meant to test candidates navigating skills as stated before – if they take a wrong turn or get lost it will not go 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 or moving into the correct lane without warning or checking mirrors.
The previous version of the driving test involved doing simply two manoeuvres, one of which would be a parking exercise and the other either a turn in the road or a reverse around a corner. Now the test will only involve one manouvre but candidates won’t know which one it will be. So even though most people have one they particularly struggle with, you must make sure you have practiced all of them to test standard. One in three candidates will also be asked to carry out an emergency stop.
Using a sat-nav during the test?
OK so most modern cars have built in sat-navs however you won’t be allowed to use it. The aim of independent driving is to test your ability to drive unsupervised, and make safe decisions without guidance in unfamiliar driving situations; therefore, you cannot use satellite navigation aids.
Will the test will take longer or cost more?
The test will stay same length of approxiamately 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 driving test.
Is the test more difficult due to independent driving?
During early trials of the new test, the pass rate did drop noticeably. But the DVSA 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.
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.