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Yesterday marked a landmark change to the British driving test, the first change since the introduction of the written theory test in 1996. The driving test is being overhauled to change the way in which learner drivers are examined.

PCS StrikeThe new test will focus on learner drivers being tested on ‘real life’ driving skills. The main changes being brought in include candidates being asked to follow directions from Sat Nav; an increase in the length of time a candidate is expected to drive independently from 10 minutes to 20 minutes; reversing manoeuvres, such as reversing around corners and three-point-turns, being abolished; and candidates will now be asked two vehicle safety questions.

The reasoning behind the changes is to improve safety on British roads and to reduce road related deaths of young drivers. Young drivers, under the age of 25, are seven times more likely to be killed or seriously injured while driving compared with their older counterpart which is a grave concern.

The introduction of the new driving test has been met with criticism by employees of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) on the basis that the new test is badly designed and could put members of the public at risk.

As a result of their concerns, PCS members voted in favour of strike action to highlight their distain at the introduction of the changes. Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action with 84% of a 70% turnout in favour of industrial action. The strike, taking place on Monday and Tuesday (4th and 5th December 2017), clearly highlights how seriously PCS and their members concerns are.

PCS have called for the new test to be suspended until a full safety review can be carried out of incidents which have occurred during driving lessons. As well as changing the driving test, DVSA are also seeking to change contracts of employment of examiners to bring in a flexible working system whereby examiners could be working six days per week and only being paid for five. It would also mean that managers could send staff to other branches to carry out testing resulting in travelling times of up to 90 minutes per day.

The use of industrial action by  PCS members demonstrates the grave concerns they have regarding the new driving test. While the improvement of road safety would be a welcomed changed, changes to the driving test should be done in the correct way with those on the front line (i.e driving examiners) adequately consulted before changes are made.  

Blog by Eilish Lindsay Solicitor

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