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Are modern cars making the driving test too easy?

Experts have slammed the DVSA for failing to keep the driving test relevant with semi-autonomous technology making driving easier.

Learner drivers taking their practical driving tests in modern cars are gaining an unfair advantage, as the hi-tech gadgets help them avoid accidents and faults.

That’s the verdict of road safety experts, who have slammed the DVSA for failing to keep the driving test relevant and say those taking their test in older vehicles are losing out.

Technology like speed limit detection, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and collision warning systems are available on most learner cars – and all can be used during the practical driving test. It means learner drivers are able to avoid picking up minors during the test for things like ignoring blind spots, staying in their lane and reacting late to traffic in front.

The practical driving test has been upgraded recently in response to in-car tech like hill-start assist, parking sensors and electronic handbrakes, but the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is yet to account for semi-autonomous technology helping learners.

The head of driver advice at UK road safety charity IAM Roadsmart, Peter Rodger, said:

“The rate of change is phenomenal compared to what it was five years ago.

“The DVSA has to meet the challenge of keeping the test relevant.”

As well as making it easier for learners to pass, the use of driving aids also increases the likelihood of new drivers struggling when they first take to the roads on their own as their first car is unlikely to include the same technology.

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To help standardise the testing process, it has been suggested that an ‘exam car’ could be used for learners to take their test in. The basic exam car could also be fitted with dash cams to record tests in case of disputes.

Speaking about the idea of a standard test car, RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said:

“Having standard examination vehicles made available to drivers taking their test is a novel idea.

“In an ideal world, instructors’ vehicles would be renewed on a regular basis so that everyone learning gets used to new driver assistance aids as they get introduced, and as the driving test is updated – but it’s hard to see how this could be forced upon instructors.”

A standardised exam car would also make it harder to pass the test as learners would have to get to grips with a new car while taking their test.

Steve Gooding, the director of the RAC Foundation, said that learner drivers should become “safe drivers in all sorts of cars, not just the ones they take their tests in.”

Gooding said:

“Levelling the playing field by dropping learner drivers into an exam car for their test sounds good in theory but bad in practice.

“Ultimately, it is down to instructors to enter their pupils for a test when they are confident they have the right attitude to be a good driver as well as the mere technical skills.”

Perhaps the biggest obstacle in the way would be the cost for paying and maintaining the exam cars, which would no doubt increase the cost of the driving test – which is currently £62.

The DVSA has admitted that the practical driving test is struggling to keep pace with technology and said updates were due.

DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn said:

“As new technology becomes more widely accepted, or we think that the driving environment has changed, we will update the test again.

“When you are taking your practical driving test, you need to make sure the test is reflective not only of the environment in which you’re driving but also the type of technology that you are interacting with, which is something that will probably come in the near future.”

What car can I take my test in?

Learner drivers usually take their test in their instructor’s car, as this is the car they have learned in and are most comfortable in. However, you can take your test in your own car as long as it meets certain requirements.

If you plan to do this though make sure you check first as your test will be cancelled and you will not receive a refund if you turn up in a car that doesn’t meet the rules.

In order to qualify as a ‘test vehicle’, you car has to be taxed and have the relevant insurance for a driving test as well as have a valid MOT certificate. The car tyres must be legal without any damage, and the dashboard must have no warning lights. The car must have four wheels, weigh no more than 3,500kg, be capable of reaching at least 62mph and be completely smoke-free.

You will also need to add L-plates on the front and back of the car and fit an extra interior rear-view mirror for the examiner. You can use your own dash cam if you have one, but you are not allowed to record any video or audio from inside the car.

There are certain cars you are not allow to take your test in, as these do not offer the examiner all-round vision. These include:

  • MINI Convertible
  • Toyota iQ
  • Ford Ka convertible
  • VW Beetle Convertible