Independent driving in the driving test: What Is It?

From 4 October 2010 your practical driving test will include a section of ‘independent driving’. In the independent driving section of your test, you will drive for about 10 minutes without step-by-step direction from your examiner.

At present, examiners give candidates step-by-step instructions during the test. For other parts of the test, this will still be true. But during the independent driving section of the test, the examiner will ask you to drive by either following a series of directions, following traffic signs, or a combination of both.

To help you understand where you’re going, the examiner may show you a diagram. It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember every direction, or if you go the wrong way – that can happen to the most experienced drivers. Independent driving is not a test of your orientation and navigation skills.

Driving independently means making your own decisions – this includes deciding when it’s safe and appropriate to ask for confirmation about where you’re going.

The independent driving route

If you ask for a reminder of the directions, the examiner will confirm them to you.

If you go off the independent driving route it won’t affect the result of your test unless you commit a driving fault. If you go off the route or take a wrong turning, the examiner will help you to get back on the route and continue with the independent driving.

If there are poor or obscured traffic signs, the examiner will give you directions until you can see the next traffic sign – you won’t need to have a detailed knowledge of the area.

You can’t use a sat nav for independent driving as it gives you turn-by-turn prompts. Independent driving tests how you make your own decisions.

Test routes will no longer be published

To help make the driving test more representative of real driving, the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) will no longer publish details of test routes. Currently, test routes used by each driving test centre are published online; this will stop when the DSA introduces new routes at the beginning of October 2010.

This change is being made to support the introduction of independent driving. The point is to allow you to demonstrate your ability to drive safely in realistic driving situations, rather than memorising a particular test route.

Newspaper reports

Some newspapers have claimed that independent driving would lead to a fall in the driving test pass rate. This claim is based on early research where conditions did not reflect the eventual design of the independent driving section of the test.

Subsequent trials with a larger number of participants, and more closely reflecting the conditions in the planned new test, showed no significant fall in the pass rate.

Video shows independent driving

The Driving Standards Agency has published a short video on its YouTube channel explaining more about independent driving. website – Thursday, 9 September 2010