A Driving Instructor's Blog

DVSA

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Sat nav displayAn email alert has just come in from DVSA advising that the driving test will change from 4 December 2017. The changes are as follows:

  • Independent driving will now last for 20 minutes (instead of 10 minutes)
  • 4 out of every 5 tests will use a sat nav for the independent driving part
  • 1 out of every 5 tests will use traffic signs for the independent driving part (as often done now)
  • turn in the road and reversing around a corner will no longer be tested
  • 1 out of 3 possible manoeuvres will be tested – parallel park, bay park, or reversing in a straight line on the right-hand side of the road
  • one of the show me/tell me questions will be asked while you are driving

The bay park exercise could involve reversing in (as now) and driving out again, or driving in forwards, then reversing back out again. The straight reverse on the right will be for about two car lengths, then driving back out into the normal traffic flow.

The sat nav will be supplied by the examiner and won’t involve route setting. Going the wrong way won’t result in a fail as long as it is done properly (as now with independent driving).

The show me/tell question asked while driving will be of the “show me how you’d clean the windscreen if it was dirty” kind (not “show me how you’d adjust your head restraint”).

Although the changes are watered down a little from what was being discussed last year, I am totally opposed to the removal of the turn in the road and corner reverse exercises. These should have remained on the list of possible manoeuvres to make sure instructors were teaching people properly. DVSA says that “you should still be taught them by your instructor”, but that is bollocks – within 18 months the majority of ADIs won’t go anywhere near them (many won’t right from the off), and pupils are going to start kicking up a stink when they know they’re not going to be tested and yet are still being taught them on lessons (especially the ones who have trouble with them, or who can’t afford lessons as it is).

DVSA has only provided the most basic information showing response to the consultation. There is no detailed breakdown of who voted what – God only knows why you would want to ask “the public” how it should be tested on something it can’t do very well in the first place – and some obvious weasel words which amount to “well, even though people said ‘yes’, we decided it would be ‘no’”, and vice versa. I know that some weak-minded ADIs who were involved in the trials were gushing about the changes from the moment they had their first meeting with DVSA, but I can’t believe that those with a mind of their own were happy with everything.

I don’t have an issue with the other changes.

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I updated this again. I’m still getting hits on the same search terms so I thought I’d give examples when I get them:

  • 13/10/2015 – “bribe driving examiner uk”
  • 14/03/2016 – “how to tell if your driving examner is corputed [sic]”
  • 26/03/2017 – “driving test how does bribe work woth instructors [sic]”
  • 26/03/2017 – “bribing driving examiner”
  • 28/03/2017 – “how much to bribe a driving examiner”

I wrote this article back in 2011, but I’m still getting people finding the blog on the search term “how do I bribe driving examiner” or something equally lacking in good English.Bribery - it means handing over money

Look. If you are so stupid that you don’t know how to do this, ask yourself if you really should be driving a car unsupervised. Because you really shouldn’t. But since you obviously are that stupid, it means handing over money in return for a favour – in this case, a test pass even if you are a crap driver.

The simple fact that you’ve typed the question into a search engine means it can be traced back to you, and for all you know the agencies could be looking for people just like you. So well done for flagging yourself up to them as a cheat and a liar.

It’s hard to fathom how weak-minded someone needs to be to consider criminal acts and to ignore the consequences of those acts as a viable way of getting what they want.

Bribery of driving examiners has less than a 0.1% chance of succeeding. However, the risk of jail or deportation for trying it is pretty much guaranteed. It’s far easier – and cheaper – to learn to drive properly and take your driving test. Just look at some of the idiots who have been prosecuted – two morons in this story, lots of them in this one, two more here.

One thing that’s becoming apparent is that the people most likely to consider paying someone else to do their test for them are usually from countries where fraud and corruption are written into the constitution. It’s also apparent that those most likely to take money from these idiots and then to try to impersonate them (even though they look nothing like them) come from the same communities!

Let’s try this in big red letters to see if it helps some of the stupid ones out there understand it better:

IT IS EASIER AND CHEAPER TO PASS YOUR TEST LEGITIMATELY THAN IT IS TO TRY AND BRIBE THE EXAMINER OR TO PAY SOMEONE TO IMPERSONATE YOU.

IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY YOU MAY WELL FIND THAT EVERY ASPECT OF GOVERNMENT IS CORRUPT, AND EVERYTHING CAN BE OBTAINED IF YOU PAY THE RIGHT MONEY TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE. IN THE UK IT IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE. THEREFORE YOU ARE TAKING A HUGE RISK.

YOU ARE PROBABLY DESPERATE TO DRIVE SO THAT YOU CAN GET A JOB. IF YOU GET CAUGHT TRYING TO CHEAT YOU’LL BE LUCKY IF YOU EVER WORK AGAIN IN THE UK.

EVEN IF YOU FOUND A CORRUPT EXAMINER (HIGHLY UNLIKELY IN THE UK), AND ASSUMING THAT YOU GOT AWAY WITH IT (EVEN LESS LIKELY), THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE YOU WILL END UP KILLING SOMEONE BECAUSE YOU STILL CAN’T DRIVE.

How can I tell if my examiner is corrupt?

Or, as it was asked to find the blog, “how to tell if your driving examner is corputed [sic]”.

Ask him. If you end up in handcuffs in the back of a police van, then he obviously wasn’t. Or you didn’t offer him enough.

It’s cheaper to learn to drive properly, you idiot.

Can I get done trying to bribe an examiner?

Or more accurately, “can I get done tryong [sic] to bribe a [sic] examiner”?

See above.

Is it easier if I get someone to take the test for me?

If you get away with it, yes. However, it will mean that you are still a crap driver and may well end up killing someone. However, paying someone to take the test for you is more expensive than learning properly. Your chances of  successfully gaining a licence this way in the UK are almost zero, and even if you initially get away with it, at some point they will catch the person you paid and take your false licence away. You will then be fined, perhaps imprisoned, or even deported if you are not a UK citizen.

If you’re still so stupid you want to try it, go ahead. And watch me laugh when you get caught.

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This article was originally published in February 2014. Updated in 2015, November 2016, and March 2017.A Clifton Test Route

I get frequent hits on the blog from people looking for test route information. Test routes are no longer published for Nottingham, or anywhere else – they stopped publishing them in 2010!

If you’re an instructor, it isn’t difficult to work out where the examiners go. To begin with, anywhere near the test centre is bound to be on most of the routes. If you know the examiners to look at, you’ll see them from time to time as you conduct your lessons, so you can add that location to your memory bank. You can also ask your pupils where they went after their tests – some of them will be able to give you some details, though many won’t. If they fail their test, find out where the mistakes occurred – the examiner will be more than happy to tell you – and if it crops up more than once, modify your lesson structure and deal with it going forward. Finally, if you’re desperate to know the exact routes you can sit in on tests and learn that way. If you know what you’re doing you can even log the routes for reference – the picture above shows one of the test routes for the now-closed Clifton Test Centre (the orange dot), which I recorded myself. Click on it for a larger image.

Conducting your lessons only on test routes is rather foolish. Apart from the fact that you’re cheating your pupils by not teaching them to drive properly, examiners can change routes or mix and match from several routes any time they need to. Pupils who try to memorise test routes are far more likely to fail because they’re prioritising the wrong things – worrying about forgetting the route instead of thinking about driving properly. Considering that there are dozens of official routes at any large test centre, it would require a considerable feat of memory to store all of them, and then to be able to recall just one as needed. Based on my own experience, many pupils have difficulty recognising a street we’ve been on a hundred times before, so memorising 20 or more complete routes is even less possible for them.

Having said that, it is important for an ADI to have some knowledge of the test routes so that special features can be covered. Every town or test centre has these – the tricky roundabout with the one-way street and No Entry sign, the unusually steep hill that can only be negotiated in second gear (and which may require a hill start if some jackass in a van doesn’t give way coming down it), the STOP junction immediately after an emerge on to a busy road with a bend, and so on. It doesn’t matter how good someone is at dealing with roundabouts, if they come face to face with ones like the Nottingham Knight or Nuthall roundabouts up my way, without prior practice there’s a high probability they’ll get it wrong. Someone’s first practical experience of such a roundabout shouldn’t be on their driving test.

I remember when I first became an ADI, and religiously downloading all the routes provided by DVSA (then, DSA). The documents consisted of tables of directions which were cryptic unless you knew roads by name and/or number, which I didn’t at that time. I made a single half-hearted attempt to plot a route before giving up – there just wasn’t time – and I quickly realised that it was pointless anyway. These days, I’d probably be able to interpret those route plans quite easily, but these days my pupils get to drive all over – sometimes on test route roads, sometimes not.

Hanging around test areas like a bad smell also gets you a bad reputation. You get in the way of real tests, if nothing else. But you’ll also end up struggling with all the other morons trying to do the same as you.

Where can I download test routes?

You can’t. Not unless some ADI has recorded them and is publishing them independently.

Should I pay for downloadable test routes?

My advice would be no. DVSA stopped publishing them for a reason, and if some smart aleck is trying to profit from selling them then he or she is behaving in an unprofessional manner. If you buy into that then you’re not much better. There’s a good chance you’re being sold old routes, anyway.

A desire to obtain detailed test routes for use on lessons seems to be something newly-qualified ADIs attach high importance to. Trust me: don’t waste your money.

Is it possible to record test routes?

Yes. There are free and paid for apps available for both Android and iPhone which use GPS to record journeys. Similarly, there are numerous GPS tracker devices available which do the same. I use a tracker and I know where every pupil goes on their test (and I can see where they are while I’m at the test centre, so I know when they are coming back). This is purely for my own information, and publishing my logged routes would be completely against DVSA’s original reason for stopping publication. If it wasn’t already apparent from the rest of this blog, I have absolutely no inclination or desire to go against DVSA.

I have provided an old Clifton test route in the image at the start of this article (Clifton is now closed). What is interesting from my logged routes is how they change over time. Sometimes, tests follow precisely the same route as previous ones, but other times new sub-sections of route are added. And knowing where a pupil went on their specific test is useful if they fail and you need to identify exactly what went wrong, and where.

You can also record routes using dashcams. I recently showed a pupil where she had failed after the examiner explained it in the debrief, but she didn’t know what he was talking about. I placed it online for her to look at less than an hour later.

How do I know the routes I’ve bought are correct and up to date?

You don’t – and they’re probably not. They might even be totally imaginary, or simply cobbled together to be reasonably close to actual routes in order that the unprofessional person selling them has some justification for the price they charged you. They may just be the original ones that they stopped publishing in 2010 and which are almost certainly out of date. As I said above, routes change with time.

Do I need to know the test routes for my test?

No. The examiner will give you directions as necessary, or ask you to follow road signs. However, if there are one or two awkward features – big roundabouts, steep hills, or so on – then your instructor should know about them and make sure you know how to handle them.

People fail tests because they can’t drive properly far more frequently than they do because they couldn’t recall a memorised route. However, not driving properly becomes much more likely when your brain is scrambling around thinking “now, what is it I have to do here?”

How many test routes are there?

It varies from test centre to test centre, but there could be 10, 20, or more. You couldn’t possibly memorise all of them – and to be honest, even if you drove down your own street on your test the chances are that you might not notice! You will be nervous, and you will be concentrating. The last thing you want is to have to try and remember a detailed list of directions, then to start fretting if you think you might have forgotten something.

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Driver using mobile phoneFrom today (1 March 2017) the penalties for using a mobile phone when driving have increased.

If you get caught now, it’s 6 points on your licence and a £200 fine. New drivers – those who passed their tests less than 2 years ago – should bear in mind that the points will put them at the limit provided during the probationary period. In theory – and, hopefully, in reality – that means you’re banned.

DVSA’s photo used in the news release carries the words “make the glove compartment the phone compartment”. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen – the typical 17-year old can only put their phone in one of two places: in their hand, or between their legs. Well over half of my new pupils try that at first, and I know for a fact that however much I emphasise the dangers and penalties, when they pass they’re going to do it. I also know that they will use their phone while they’re driving – it is a condition of 17-year olds today.

I fully agree with higher penalties. The only form of education which stands any chance of working is one which carries a significant punishment with it.

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Learner car recoveryI saw this story a few days ago about a man in Norfolk who failed his driving test “in just 5 seconds”.

It reminded me of something that happened to one of my pupils about 7 years ago. He drove back into the test centre and I made my way through the waiting room to go and listen to the debrief. With hindsight, I think I heard a loud clang as I did so, but it didn’t register at the time. When I reached the car the passenger door was open and the examiner had his head in his hands and was saying:

I can’t believe you did that. I just can’t believe it.

I asked what had happened, and the examiner told me he’d asked my pupil to pull forwards into a parking bay, but he didn’t stop in time and had driven into the crash barrier surrounding the car park. I went to the front of the car and saw that there was no damage – just a very slight scuff. When I got back to the passenger side the examiner was still repeating that he couldn’t believe it. I looked at the fault sheet and said:

Do my eyes deceive me, or did he only have two faults?

The examiner replied:

That’s the whole point! It was almost a perfect drive.

Then he said he couldn’t believe it a couple more times, and added:

I’ve got to fail you because there could have been someone standing there. You can obviously drive and we’ll see you again soon.

My pupil was a very good driver, but in spite of that it took him another five attempts to pass in the end, as he picked up a different single serious fault on the four more he failed. I used to rib him about how he’d managed to fail that first one literally less than one second from the end. And I use the example to emphasise to all my other pupils that they mustn’t switch off as they head back to the test centre (which is a common issue with learners).

I should add that I have no issue whatsoever with the examiner’s decision nor with his explanation. He was 100% right. Examiners have no way of knowing how someone drives the rest of the time, which is why candidates need to be squeaky clean on their tests when it comes to safety matters. If they aren’t, the examiners have to (or should) err on the side of caution.

As for the pupil, we are still in regular contact – though I have ignored him this last weekend. He is a Chelsea supporter whose smugness is currently off the scale. And I’m not.

As for the guy in King’s Lynn in that original article, it’s a similar situation. Yes, he had a brain fart – but what if he’d had a similar fart while driving alone just as a group of school kids started to walk across a road? The examiner had to fail him, no matter how good the rest of the drive was. If he hadn’t, there’d really be no point in having a driving test system in the first place.

With new pupils, and especially (though not exclusively) those who have driven in other countries, I often say “UK rules, UK rules” at some point, as they turn into a junction and aim for the right-hand side of the road. With some, it is a deliberate act, but very new drivers it is just a steering issue.

I saw another ADI end up on a pavement and nearly through a hedge earlier this week as his pupil over steered into a junction and then didn’t straighten up (probably with a bit of gas thrown in for good measure, followed by blind panic, which usually happens). I think we’ve all been there at least once in our careers. Indeed, it was such occurrences that led me to realise that the dual controls are a useful tool for teaching beginners, and not something to avoid using at all costs.

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A two-legged stoolThis email alert just came through from DfT. It’s about allowing learner drivers on motorways.

Let’s just take a time-out here before we get all excited. This precise subject has kicked off at least twice in the last 10 years, and each time it was put across as ‘definitely going to happen’. Changes to government killed it stone dead both times, just as it has the various other times it’s kicked off going back further still.

This current government is about as stable as a two-legged stool as a result of Brexit and Theresa May’s unbelievably bad appointments to both the Cabinet and other posts, and her obvious inability to see how ‘Brexit’ and ‘business as normal’ are mutually exclusive. It isn’t going to survive past one term at best, and even if it does it’s going to have a lot on its plate. This particular issue will be way down the list, and quite frankly – and disappointingly – I can see it sinking without trace just like it does every other time.

Having said that, I really hope that I’m wrong. Allowing learners on to motorways is massively overdue, and I would welcome it.

The proposals would mean that only ADIs in cars fitted with dual controls would be allowed to conduct motorway lessons. Roof boxes (advertising the school) would not be allowed, because they can (and do sometimes) blow off at speed. Motorway lessons would be ‘voluntary’ – I’m not 100% certain what that means, but it’s probably a get-out clause for people who don’t live anywhere near a motorway (and, unfortunately, those ADIs who – through every fault of their own – can’t afford the fuel for the additional miles a motorway lesson would entail, and who wouldn’t do them even if they could).

There is a consultation in that link I gave for people to add their own comments.

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I’m getting a lot of hits on this subject, probably due to the Watchdog programme which aired this week.

The situation is a little confused at the moment. A recall is already in effect for certain Corsa models made between 2006-2014, and this was the subject of a Watchdog report a couple of months ago. The latest report suggests all Corsa D and E models are implicated. This latter problem is not yet official (to my knowledge) and no recall is in effect.

The original problem affected a few thousand cars, whereas this new problem – if it is verified – implicates virtually all Corsas made since 2006. The problem is a similar one to that which caused Zafiras to be recalled.

DVSA is currently investigating based on the reports, and has advised Vauxhall to ensure customer safety in the meantime. Quite how Vauxhall will do that is not yet known, although if this FAQ is anything to go by, probably not a lot.

Corsas are used by a lot of ADIs – particularly those at BSM.

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This article was published in 2015, but I’ve started getting hits this year, and DVSA has sent out the first 2016 reminder, so it’s worth an update.


DVSA has posted a new blog entry [original article from 2015] concerning bad weather and driving tests. As we know, apart from being rocket scientists, doctors, psychiatrists, life coaches, political raconteurs, with most having been refused entry into Mensa for being too intelligent, the average driving instructor is also a highly skilled meteorologist.Snow on a road

As DVSA says, they have a duty of care. However, what they don’t say is that tests are pretty much only ever cancelled when it is icy or particularly foggy. I don’t blame them one bit, since the majority of test candidates will not have driven in fog or snow/ice before (many will have cancelled lessons for just that reason in the past, or their instructor will have) and doing it for the first time on their tests is a pretty risky operation for anyone within a 2 mile radius of them.

I can’t understand why instructors get so worked up about bad weather cancellations. Fair enough, it’s lost income (well, for most it is – some still charge their pupils), but it isn’t as if the well-run driving school is going to have a turnover based totally on income from driving tests. It’s more like a maximum of two or three a week.

My own advice is:

  • don’t book early morning tests in winter
  • instructors should avoid having too many tests in a single week… especially in winter
  • instructors should warn pupils at the outset that tests get cancelled in bad weather
  • instructors shouldn’t act like it’s never happened before in front of the pupil if they get cancelled
  • instructors shouldn’t blame DVSA

You can whinge and whine as much as you want if tests get cancelled, but you won’t change the test centre manager’s mind. Life is much more relaxing if you just accept that it happens and learn to deal with it. That way, you can minimise – or even eliminate – any final loss incurred, and help to prevent childish and inaccurate advice being passed on to future generations of learners.

How does that saying go? If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.


The comments began almost immediately back in 2015. One ADI questioned DVSA’s criterion for cancelling due to fog, citing “bad mist/moderate fog” as an example of a poor reason for tests being postponed. As I said, many ADIs believe that they are skilled meteorologists.

Many test candidates will never have driven in foggy conditions before. Furthermore, fog can be patchy and unpredictable – I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been driving on the motorway during the winter and early-evening or early-morning fog banks start appearing, and you can be driving in totally clear conditions one moment, only to be unable to see more than a few car lengths ahead a second or two later. There is no way I would expect DVSA to risk either their examiners or the candidates’ wellbeing if such a risk exists, and I trust them to make the decision. I also don’t go around looking for evidence to contradict them.

Another ADI referred to a situation where it was obvious that a test was going to be cancelled, and yet he was forced to pick a pupil up in dangerous conditions since DVSA would not confirm that the test was off until 20 minutes before it was due to go out. If what he has said is correct, then he definitely has a point. His test centre should have been rather more sensible. We’re a bit more fortunate up this way – before now I’ve spoken with the test centre manager or an examiner and they’ve actually asked me if I’d like them to make an immediate decision rather than delay that decision (when conditions were very bad about three years ago). Based on my limited meteorological knowledge (yes, I admit it!), they tend to cancel whole mornings if things are bad, or up until a certain time if they think things might improve, and that really helps me when it comes to picking up pupils. Maybe a word with the test centre in question would be a more fruitful area to investigate for that commenter instead of just bad-mouthing them.

Will my test be cancelled due to bad weather?

I’ve answered this just about every year since I started the blog. YES. YOUR TEST CAN GET CANCELLED IF THE WEATHER IS BAD. If it IS cancelled, you will get another one free of charge.

Typical examples of ‘bad weather’ include:

  • thick fog in any part of the test area
  • falling snow with poor prognosis
  • lying snow on roads
  • ice
  • extremely high winds
  • flooding

In theory, ANY type of ‘bad weather’ could cause a cancellation, but they usually don’t. I’ve never had one cancelled due to wind or flooding, but I have the others.

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This took me by surprise. An email alert from DVSA announces that Clifton Test Centre will cease operating on 25 January 2017. It is not relocating, which means Nottingham will have three test centres instead of four going forward (pending any further announcements, of course).

I’m sure there will be those who will find fault with this. Clifton doesn’t request a bay park manoeuvre (it has no bays), and while DVSA is already trying its hardest to dumb the test down so that all you have to do to pass is to be able open the car door in less than three tries, there are already plenty of instructors working towards a similar goal in their own way by avoiding having to teach the bay park manoeuvre wherever possible.

Note that there is no suggestion that Nottingham will be conducting fewer tests – another likely conclusion that will be drawn by some. The examiners at Clifton rotate anyway, and they’ll just work out of the main centres.

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An email alert just came through from DVSA advising that from 28 October 2016 the permanent Chilwell location for the test centre (formerly situated in Beeston) will be at Unit 24 on Eldon Road. This is little more than a stone’s throw away from the Village Hotel, where it is currently situated.

Up until 28 October, tests are from the Village. There will be an open day on 1 November.

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