Training for your Driving Test – does it help?

Following on from my previous article I have had a few comments complaining that I am unfairly criticising the UK driving test.   That could not be further from truth and is not my intention.

The UK practical driving test is one of the best in the world.  My criticism is not of the practical test but of the generally poor training that is available for the ‘new driver’ to help prepare them to survive and have an enjoyable and safe, hassle free lifetime of driving.

My criticism not of the test or individual driving instructors but of the system that allows sub-standard training of, primarily, the driving instructors to persist. If instructors do not perform proficiently how can one expect the ‘new driver’ to know any better?  The ‘on-road / in-car’ training element should be recognised as just one part of the learning process.

Road user education should be part of the national school curriculum and start from an early age. Likewise, parents should realise just how much influence they have over the formation of their children’s attitude to driving. Without either of these two elements, ‘poor quality’ instruction’ can literally be the final nail in the coffin.

Most of the ‘tweaks’ to the UK test are arguably only necessary because the problems are not being dealt with adequately, in most cases, during the practical in car training.  The best example of this is the Hazard Perception test – it does nothing to identify or develop a drivers powers of ‘anticipation’ or ‘response’. The HP Test was deemed necessary because, lamentably, the vast majority of instructors were unsuccessful at developing or just didn’t bother to develop student drivers’ powers of anticipation, attitude or response.

In the last 40 years I have trained, assessed and conducted statutory driving tests on thousands of drivers and driving instructors in all categories of road vehicle in the UK and abroad.

It is easy to assess a drivers mechanical and control skills and also to identify a drivers powers of anticipation and situation judgement.  When routinely conducting driving tests, it is also very easy to identify which instructors consistently fail to do a thorough job.  Some drivers do not have a chance because of the obvious incompetence of their instructor.

When one supervises instructors, as part of the statutory ADI register check test requirement, the situation is even more alarming with obvious deficiencies showing, even with many of the instructors whose pupils normally perform reasonably well on their driving test. The test does not confirm a driver is ‘good’ – it just acknowledges that a MINIMUM standard was observed at that particular time!

The standard of driver and driving instructor training in the UK can and should be urgently and significantly improved. Putting patches over the cracks may make it look better, and may convince some to believe everything that can be done is being done, but, the problems will remain!

A tougher test will produce an increase in the number of people driving untested and unlicensed. More restrictions may reduce casualties to a degree but they will needlessly restrict and criminalise many of the competent and responsible new drivers and will be ignored by the natural violators anyway. Additionally, if enforcement is to be uniform and thorough the added restrictions will put a huge demand on resources that we don’t have.

Don’t let’s have more patches – instead, let’s improve the standard of training made available to the unsuspecting public.

The other answer of course is to reduce the ‘bad’ instructor influence by using a properly designed driving simulator to provide uniform and consistent training for 75% of the training process.  Yes, this is very achievable.

At least with a good driving simulator, and they are as rare as hens teeth at the moment, you can train and test a driver in situations that cannot ever be tested on the road.

Barry Jones


About Barry Jones

40 years experience in the ‘driver education’ industry as driving instructor, DSA Assistant Chief Driving Examiner, driving instructor trainer and driving simulator designer and consultant. Barry is available for assessments and coaching for any driver or 'new' or 'experienced' driving instructor. Barry has always had a passion about cars and remains a lifelong follower, and previous competitor and organiser, of a range of motor sport activities including circuit racing and motor rallies. If anyone wishes to discuss any aspect of driving, training or motoring in general please do not hesitate to contact via email.
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