In order to handle a car legally on public roads in the UK, new drivers have to pass a 40-minute driving test. But to ensure the test better prepares drivers for modern motoring, the biggest shake up in 20 years is happening in December 2017.
The driving test will still last the same amount of time and still be marked the same way. It will still cost £62 on weekdays, £75 for evenings, weekends and bank holidays. But from Monday December 4, the driving test in England, Scotland and Wales will face the most far-reaching changes since the addition of the theory test in 1996. Here are the four new features budding drivers will encounter.
Increased independent driving
To many people, the driving test is a rite of passage. Like turning 16, heading off to university or arriving for the first day of work, ripping up the L-plates is something we all remember.
However, some drivers look back and feel a chill run down their spine. The driving test may have been one of the most stressful times of their life. And to make matters worse, it may have taken several attempts to pass.
All too often, that’s because they unwittingly sat the examination in an area with one of the lowest pass rates in the UK.
Believe it or not, at the UK’s toughest test centres, less than a third of candidates get their licence. The most successful areas see a staggering 80 per cent pass first time.
So the 1.5 million new drivers looking to pass every year should think carefully about where they take their theory and practical tests. Especially in light of the changes to the test, due to be introduced this December.
Plan ahead, and it could be as easy as mirror-signal-manoeuvre. Pick poorly and it could be more bump and grind.
Where’s best to take the driving test?
The annual MOT enables technicians to perform vital road safety checks
Drivers have come out against a government proposal for MOT changes. Ministers are considering switching a car’s first MOT from three-years old to four. But experts say this could mean up to 500,000 more dangerous cars on the road. And in a survey for industry body the Society of Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), three quarters of car owners (76 per cent) snubbed the idea of delaying a car’s first MOT.
Why is government proposing MOT changes?
The driving test is entering the digital age, after the government announced changes that are designed to reflect the widespread use of satellite navigation systems in cars.
Learner drivers will be expected to safely follow directions from a sat nav system or they will fail their driving test. And they will spend twice the amount of time – now 20 minutes – driving independently, without guidance from the examiner.
The changes are part of a package of revisions that will come into force from 4 December. The objective is to provide a more realistic assessment of driving on today’s roads. Continue reading
Around a third of the 300 car fires a day are caused by poor maintenance or design flaws
Car fires are not as rare as you might think. The Fire Service says that around 300 cars a day go up in flames. Recently there have been high-profile blazes involving the Vauxhall Zafira MPV because of a design flaw. And figures from the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which oversees manufacturer recalls of faulty vehicles, reveal that the number of cars recalled for risk of fire increased dramatically in 2015-16.
Big-name manufacturers Honda, Chrysler, Bentley, Volkswagen, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Ferrari, and Porsche all joined Vauxhall in issuing recalls for vehicles that are at risk of catching fire because of design or build flaws.
Although the chance of a car catching fire is tiny, what do you do if it does? We asked the Fire Service for its advice.
What causes car fires?
If the verge is frosty it’s quite likely the road will be icy too
Icy roads probably aren’t something we think about much. Yet for many of us driving on ice is a regular occurrence during the coldest months of the year. If you have to scrape the ice off your car in the morning, or even perhaps when you leave work in the late afternoon, there may be ice on the road. We explain how to figure out whether the road is likely to be icy and how to drive if it is.
How to spot icy roads
Vehicle makers’ franchised dealers will carry out recall repairs free of charge (Picture © Mercedes)
A new service has been launched for drivers to check if their car needs to go in for manufacturer recall repairs. This work is called for when specific parts or systems prove faulty on a large number of similar cars. Recently, Vauxhall had to issue a second recall for its Zafira family car’s electrical components causing fires after the first fix proved ineffective. And in 2009, Toyota had to recall around nine million cars world wide, including 180,000 in Britain, because of a problem with unintended acceleration.
To enable drivers to check if their car has been subject to a recall, data company HPI has unveiled a new service to enable drivers to have someone carry out a recall check on their behalf. You simply enter the vehicle registration and HPI does the detective work for you, for £2.99. But it will only save you about 10 minutes and there are cheaper alternatives.
How to check for free if a car has been recalled
Even without a ramp at home you can easily carry out DIY MOT checks
Carrying out DIY checks on your car before you take it for its actual MOT inspection is surprisingly easy to do and could save you money. Passing the test is a legal requirement for all cars more than three years old. But for many of us, the MOT is a bit like having the outside of your home painted; we know we need to do it but we don’t look forward to it because it can bring to light remedial work that will hit the wallet hard.
According to the Driver Vehicle Services Agency (DVSA), which oversees the annual MOT test, around 40 per cent of cars fail. Yet many flunk their MOT for reasons that even a novice mechanic could spot. Follow my tips for your own basic DIY MOT test, and you could stop your car failing on the simplest points.
Sadly, not all vans are as well looked after as this one (Picture © Iveco)
Van owners and drivers are being encouraged to take more care of their vehicles. It comes after research revealed many are unsafe or overloaded. A study showed almost two thirds have a serious mechanical defect. More than nine out of 10 stopped are overloaded. It has prompted a van maintenance and awareness scheme, launched by industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Continue reading
Experts say learning to drive is far more than simply moving a car from A to B. (Picture © Renault)
The cost of learning to drive varies from driver to driver. But it’s safe to say it’s one of the pricier parts of motoring, particularly considering that every year only around half of the 1.5 million drivers who take their test will actually pass. Here we look at the costs and potential pitfalls. As Mike Frisby from the Driving Instructors Association (DIA) explained, learning to drive is far more than simply moving a car from A to B. “It’s about attitude, behaviour, a whole variety of situations and how you go about dealing with them,” he said. Continue reading