INDEPENDENT DRIVING - WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Since October 2010, driving test candidates have had to drive for about 10 minutes either following a series of directions, following traffic signs to a location or a combination of both. From December 2017 this increased to about 20 minutes with 4 out of 5 tests following directions from a sat nav and 1 in 5 tests following traffic signs to a given location. The cost and duration of the driving test remains unchanged.
The sat nav will be pre-programmed and positioned towards the centre of the dashboard on a special mat, not on the windscreen, by the examiner. The sat nav has its own integral power pack, so will not require plugging in to the car's power socket. You will be asked to confirm you're OK with the position of the sat nav and you can ask for the positioning to be changed before the test starts. There is an option of a green or blue screen, and an option on volume but not voice.
The sat nav will be on throughout the test but will only be activated for the independent driving section which can be at the beginning, middle or end of test. Speed Camera alerts will be disabled on the sat nav but the speed limit will be visible on the sat nav. Your speed should be governed by the car’s speedometer and road signs, not the speed shown on the sat nav. One of the reasons for this is that if road signs have changed and there is a new 40mph limit in place where it used to be 60mph, the sat nav may still show 60mph, but in fact you need to obey the road signs over what the sat nav says.
The examiner will ask you to pull in before starting the independent driving section of the test, when they'll give you instructions as to the independent driving section. At this point, if using a sat nav, the examiner will select and start the route, which will be pre-programmed into the sat nav. Other test activities (e.g. pull in and move off, reversing manoeuvre) may be undertaken during the independent driving section.
It doesn’t matter if you go the wrong way; as long as you go the wrong way correctly! If you go off-route (i.e. go the wrong way) you will not fail provided you don’t commit more than 15 driving faults or any serious or dangerous faults during the test (i.e. not following the sat nav or traffic sign route doesn’t constitute a fault). To quote the DVSA , “Independent driving is not a test of the candidate’s orientation skills. If the candidate goes off-route, but does not commit a fault, there’s nothing to assess”. If using the sat nav in such a situation, where possible, the examiner will allow the sat nav to re-programme and redirect you. The examiner may step in if sat nav does not re-programme and redirect promptly or the revised sat nav route will take a long time to follow. If the sat nav gives a confusing direction (e.g. says take next left but there is another entrance which could be read as a road before) the examiner will step in. If you're unsure as to the direction given on the sat nav in any way, ask the examiner for confirmation in good time. If the sat nav loses signal, the examiner will revert to using road traffic signs.
If following traffic signs and there is poor or no signage or signs are obscured, the examiner should intervene by saying something like “There are no signs here. Just continue ahead please” or “The sign is difficult to see here; It’s the next road on the left” and then “Now, carry on following signs to xyz”. The examiner will require you to follow signs to the destination and direct you back onto the route even if you know another way to the destination. This is because the examiner needs to remain in control of the test duration and ensure that you can indeed find your way to the destination.
If you are unsure as to a sat nav instruction (e.g. you are uncertain as to the whereabouts of the junction), can’t see a sign or forget where you’re going or which way to go, ask the examiner in good time (e.g. ask something like “I can’t see any signs, which way should I go?”, “Which road is the sat nav referring to?” or “Which way should I go?”). To quote the DVSA , “Driving independently means making your own decisions and...this includes deciding when it’s safe and appropriate to ask for confirmation on where you’re going”.
Reasonable adjustments will be made for people with disabilities/special needs (e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia, etc) depending on severity. Advise your instructor, who’ll contact the DVSA requesting reasonable adjustments. If you declares a disability, the examiner can use discretion on the use of the sat nav, but you cannot request not to use it.
Where a candidate doesn’t speak English, examiners are experienced in dealing with this situation. For example, the examiner may write down the place name where it involves following signs.
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