Category - DVSA

Driving Test Routes – Anywhere

Pro Pod - map history viewOriginally published in 2014, but updated due to numerous recent enquiries.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people looking for test route information. Once upon a time, official test routes were published by DVSA (when it was still DSA) and available for download. They stopped publishing them in 2010, but that didn’t prevent people who had already downloaded them circulating them. In later years – even right now in 2021 – certain unscrupulous instructors and money-makers were even selling them at silly prices.

One major problem with test routes is that they change over time as DVSA adds new ones or removes others. They can even change on the day of the test for reasons such as roadworks or road closures. And unless they are being officially published you have no way of knowing if ones given to you are correct – or if someone has just cobbled together some old information into a crude list of road numbers and names and perhaps charged you a tenner for it. I can absolutely guarantee that many of those advertised on old-fashioned HTML websites are these original out-of-date lists. The other major problem is that deliberately trying to teach just test routes doesn’t get better pass results, but it does produce less able drivers.

You don’t really need to know the precise test routes used. All you need is a general awareness of key features where pupils might have problems.

It isn’t difficult to work out where the examiners go on driving tests, even without using technology. They’re never going to travel more than about 20 minutes away from the test centre in any direction, so all the roads leading to the test centre are going to be involved (minus motorways in most cases). If you know the examiners to look at, you’ll see them from time to time during your lessons, so you now know they use that road or location. You can also ask your pupils where they went after their tests, and although this can produce more confusion than it does answers, you might be able to extract a bit of useful information. The examiner will often give you some details in the debrief, especially where faults were committed. And finally, you can sit in on tests (when there isn’t a pandemic) and actually watch where they go. You can quickly work out which specific areas to concentrate on by putting all of this together into your lesson plans.

The best way, though, is to use some sort of tracking device, which logs the precise route taken by the car. These days, most satnavs have a feature which allows you to do this. Personally, I don’t like that method because it tends to be tied in with the satnav software, be satnav-specific, and it can be a right pain trying to download it and manipulate it on standard mapping software. The other problem is that you’re unlikely to be able to leave it running while someone is out on test, because the examiner will be using theirs, and thinking back to my old satnav years ago, it didn’t always get a signal if it wasn’t stuck on the windscreen. I’m not saying they’re like that now, but they are designed to be used in that position – and not in the glove box. And the other weakness is that the satnav is the recorder, so you have to wait until the test is over and you can grab it before you know where it went.

Dashcams are another way. The better ones also record GPS data, though often – like satnavs – you can only manipulate this within the camera manufacturer’s specific software. And again, you only get to see it after the event.

A third option is to use one of any number of apps for smartphones. These log routes in a format that mapping software understands. I’ve tried them, and they do work – with a few limitations. Firstly, you would need to leave your phone in the car when it went out on a test, meaning you’d be phoneless for the duration. A spare phone would work, but obviously this feature uses data, so you’d need a separate phone account. And when I tried them, the free versions of apps tended to be restricted to sample rates of 20-30 seconds – and that could mean a route through a junction and roundabout system might show as a straight line across a field or lake. If you wanted a 5 second sampling rate, you had to subscribe.Pro Pod - Hybrid map and satellite history view

My solution was to use a dedicated tracker. I use a ProPod tracker from Trackershop. It’s a small device the size of a matchbox, which I keep in the car. The main feature for me, apart from logging accurate position and even postal locations, is that it broadcasts its location in real-time. This means that at the test centre, I can watch the car moving on a map overlay (either on my laptop or the Trackershop app on my phone). It also means that if a test were abandoned for some reason – and that hasn’t happened yet – I’d know exactly where to go to find my car and pupil.

The picture at the top of this article shows an old test route for Chilwell Test Centre (click on the image for a larger view). This is my tracker dashboard ‘history’ view, with a specific historical time period displayed (the duration of the test in question) on a map overlay. The picture just above (click it for a larger image) is the same route with the satellite view enabled. You can zoom in almost to the level where pedestrians would be visible.

The Trackershop cloud service keeps journey history permanently (as long as you have an active account), and you can download and edit data as necessary whenever you feel like it – you just need to to know the date and time of a past test, for example, then go and find that route in your dashboard. As I mentioned, you can view data in real time on whatever overlay you have chosen, and watch the pointer moving every 5 seconds while your pupil is out on test – I find this useful for knowing when they are due back.

Pro Pod - KML file in Google EarthThe cloud data can be easily exported and downloaded. As well as GPS coordinates it logs times, speeds, and postal addresses for every data point. The picture above (click it for a larger image) shows the same test route displayed as a KML file rendered in Google Earth (note that I had to physically extract the GPS data to create this, but it isn’t difficult if you know what you’re doing).

As I have already indicated, you should not be doing your lessons across such precise routes. But they do give you an idea of where tests go.

Where can I download test routes?

You can’t download them from DVSA. The sites that offer them are provided by people trying to earn money from something that is otherwise simple to do yourself. Given that test routes change over time, it is probably cheaper to record your own.

Why don’t you provide your test route data?

A point of principle. DVSA stopped publishing them because instructors were trying to teach only the test routes, and I know full well that that’s why people want the information now. My logged routes are for my own use – I don’t stick to test routes on lessons and never have, but I want to know where the routes are so I can deal with any weird stuff.

Should I pay for downloadable test routes?

My advice would be no. DVSA stopped publishing them for a reason, and if someone is trying to profit from selling them then he or she is going against that. There’s a good chance you’re being sold old routes, anyway, and you would never know if they changed unless you kept on buying them every month or so.

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

You don’t, and they’re probably not. In fact, unless a local group of ADIs is giving you daily copies, they couldn’t possibly be reliable. In the worst case, they could be totally imaginary and simply cobbled together to be reasonably close to actual routes. Judging by some of the ancient-looking sites that list them, they’re quite likely to be the original ones that they stopped publishing in 2010. As I said above, routes change with time.

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 Pro Pod tracker). If you use a phone app as a logger, you have to leave a phone in the car.

You can also record routes using dashcams. As well as using my tracker, I also have a dashcam recording all the time. On more than one occasion I have been able to show a pupil exactly where and why they failed, even though they had no idea what the examiner was talking about in the debrief.

Slide
Slide
Slide
Slide
previous arrow
next arrow
I would strongly recommend the ProPod range of trackers from TrackerShop, but others are available. Due to a very poor experience some years ago I would strongly advise against any tracker by Rewire Security (they sold me the device on lifetime subscription, then cut that service off and made it repeated subscription – they cannot be trusted, and I will never forget it). 

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

Absolutely not. The examiner will give you directions as necessary, or ask you to follow the satnav or road signs. However, if there are one or two awkward features – big roundabouts, steep hills, or so on – your instructor should know about them and make sure you know how to handle them well before your test.

How many test routes are there?

It varies from test centre to test centre, but there could be 10, 20, or more. When they were still published by DVSA (while it was still DSA), one Nottingham test centre had 38 if I remember correctly. You couldn’t possibly memorise all of them even if you knew them all. Being brutally honest, many learners on test might not recognise their own streets when out on test, so how can they be expected to ‘remember’ multiple routes?

Can I use my tablet to log routes?

Potentially, yes. If it has a GPS chip inside, it doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to the internet or a phone network to log GPS positional data, though it would if you wanted to use it as a satnav or monitor it in real-time. However, you’d need some software that could make use of the chip. It would also depend on your device’s specification as to how accurate the data were, but you’d still be able to get decent route maps – they just wouldn’t always be necessarily precisely lined up with the roads on maps you laid them on to. I understand they are accurate to around 6 metres or better.

From what I know of Apple iPads, only the more expensive ones with phone connectivity have GPS chips in them. The WiFi only ones don’t.

Share

Renewing Your ADI Badge – 2022

This is (eventually) a complete rewrite of the original article, which I will leave below under the dotted line until this latest saga is completed. Apologies for the bad language, but you’ll probably see why.

Day 1 – As of 4 April 2022, I have received notification that my ADI badge is due for renewal in 6 months time. The email from DVSA tells me what I need to  do.

Essentially, I first have to apply for a Criminal Record Disclosure using an online link. I won’t detail the next steps just yet, since the fu*king link in the email to the website which issues the disclosures returns a 404 error (which means ‘Page not found’). And it does that from the GOV.UK website, too.

So at the moment, the first stage of renewing my licence is impossible to complete because First Advantage – the people issuing criminal disclosures this time around – have a ballsed up website.

I have emailed both DVSA and First Advantage to try and get it sorted. But hey, it’s not an important thing, is it? So why rush?

Day 2 – I got a reply from DVSA this morning (5 April) telling me First Advantage’s ‘systems were down’ yesterday. They gave me a phone number to ‘request an application pack’. A little later, First Advantage emailed me my PIN number, Org Name, and secret word with a link to begin registration. It worked this time, so no farting about with the Royal Mail and ‘application packs’ after all.

I’m going with my Passport, Driving Licence, and probably a bank statement (which I will have to go and get from my bank because I am paper free) as my verification documents. When I can find my passport, of course.

Remember what happened last time? My ‘valid from’ date on my licence had to be the date of my original test and not the start date of my current photocard. And my bank statement has to be less than three months old, but in the past, so I have to get it, then commence the application the next day.

Day 10-ish – I went to my bank a week ago and… they were shut early for ‘staff training’. When I got home, after spitting feathers for a while, I phoned the bank to request a paper copy of my statement. That arrived yesterday, and I applied for my ID check today at my local Post Office. Note that I said local Post Office.

Yes, unlike last time where there was only one office in Nottingham that did verification (the main one in the city centre that you can’t easily get to, and which is filled with people who look like rough sleepers with pushchairs), many smaller Post Offices now provide the service. And it turns out that unlike the main office, they are not intent on trying to reject your application for minor details such as a slightly faded printer line or anything. I used my pass date for my driving licence and explained what happened last time, and the whole process was completed in less time than it took each of the people in the queue before me (who still looked like rough sleepers, so I guess it’s a Post Office thing) to each post a small package.

Day 20-ish – I got an email from First Advantage telling me my application has now gone to the ‘next stage of processing’, which I think means the next stage after my initial application (indicating the ID check has been accepted).

Day 20-ish (a bit later) – I got an email from DVSA on 24 April advising me that my criminal record certificate has been accepted by the Registrar and I can remain on the Register until my current badge expires. I can apply for a new badge in the month the current one expires. So 1 October 2022 is in the diary and alarms are set.

I haven’t received my copy yet, but DVSA indicates it ‘may arrive after this email’.

Day 24-ish – My copy of my disclosure arrived this morning (28 April). So just to summarise: I have successfully completed my criminal record check application, and the result has been accepted by DVSA. All that remains is to do the renewal of my badge in October.

Watch this space – updates of the process to follow later in the year.

—————————————————————————————————————-

Note that I have updated the main renewal article for 2018 following my own recent renewal of my badge. The article below was written in 2016.

An email from DVSA points out that from 14 January 2016, when renewing your badge (or starting the qualification process) online you will need your CRB/DBS* certificate number.CRB/DBS check logo

The certificate must be less than 6 months old, have been generated by GB Group, and be specifically for the purposes of DVSA registration. You cannot use a CRB/DBS* check generated by anyone else, or one that has been generated for a different purpose.

DVSA advises that you get your CRB/DBS* sorted as soon as you get the letter (which is 6 months before your badge runs out) as it can take up to 4 months for the police to finish their checks.

I’m sure that the usual crowd will find fault with this. But for the record, when I renewed about a year ago the process was easy and quick (with a minor photo glitch that DVSA bent over backwards to sort out for me). All I am interested in is renewing my badge – not trying to build some sort of early 20th century political career against DVSA. Quite simply, if you do what you’re supposed to do, WHEN your supposed to, everything is fine. But if you’re an idiot who insists on delaying, then whining about time scales… it serves you bloody well right!

* The Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) is now the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). I tend to use the term CRB when I’m talking to people, but it’s strictly a DBS check these days.

Share

Storm Eunice: Cancelled Tests

DVSA LogoDVSA has just sent out an email alert advising that all driving and riding tests at certain test centres are cancelled due to Storm Eunice.

It’s a long list, mainly involving test centres in the south of the UK. Centres involved currently are Ashford Kent, Ashford Middlesex, Aylesbury, Banbury, Barking, Barnet, Barnstaple, Basildon, Basingstoke, Belvedere, Bishops Stortford, Bletchley, Bodmin, Borehamwood, Brentwood, Bristol (Kingswood) MPTC, Bristol Avonmouth, Bromley, Burgess Hill, Bury St Edmunds, Cambourne DTC & LGV, Cambridge, Cambridge (Hardwick), Canterbury, Cardington (Bedford), Chelmsford (Hanbury Road) GVTS, Chertsey, Chichester, Chingford, Clacton-on-Sea, Colchester, Crawley, Croydon, Culham LGV, Eastbourne, Enfield LGV, Enfield MPTC, Erith, Farnborough, Folkestone, Gillingham GVTS, Gillingham MPTC, Goodmayes, Greenford, Greenham LGV, Guildford, Hastings, Hendon, Herne Bay, High Wycombe, Hither Green, Hornchurch, Ipswich, Isle of Scilly, Isleworth, Lancing, Launceston, Lee On The Solent, Leighton Buzzard Car/LGV, Letchworth, Loughton, Lowestoft, Luton, Maidstone, Mainstream (Kent), Mill Hill, Mitcham, Morden, National Driving Centre (NDC), Newbury (Hambridge GVTS), Newport(Isle Of Wight), Norwich MPTC, Oxford (Cowley), Penzance, Pinner, Poole GVTS, Portsmouth, Reading, Redhill, Rookley LGV, Salisbury, Sevenoaks, Sidcup, Slough, Southall, Southampton (Forest Hills), Southampton (Maybush), Southampton LGV, Southend, St Albans, Stevenage, Swindon LGV, Swindon, Thurrock, Tilbury, Tolworth, Tottenham, Trainfor (Kent), Tunbridge Wells, Uxbridge, Wanstead, Watford, West Wickham, Weston-Super-Mare, Winchester DTC, Wood Green, Yeading.

New tests dates will be booked automatically if you are affected.

Share

DVSA: Trialling Reverse Park In External Car Parks

dvsaThis is interesting. DVSA has announced that it will be trialling carrying out the reverse bay park exercise in non-DVSA car parks during February and March 2022.

The trials will be conducted in Stafford, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Barnsley, Wakefield, Chester, Northwich, Upton, Wallasey, St Helens, Wolverhampton, Gillingham, Bishopbriggs, Gateshead, Durham, and Abergavenny.

I’m all for it – especially if it stops those twats who think they’re good ADIs, and yet who see the test centre car park as some magical place that their little darlings must practice in at all costs. Even when tests are coming and going, and when they have expressly been asked not to.

The first time any of my pupils get to bay park in the test centre car park is on the day of their test. Once when we turn up, and perhaps a second go if they get that manoeuvre once their test commences. The rest of the time I use business and retail parks, or supermarket car parks.

The sooner DVSA implements this fully, the better. But I bet you some instructors will be opposed to it.

Slide
Slide
Slide
Slide
Slide
Slide
previous arrow
next arrow
Share

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid!

The new Highway Code hierarchyFrom 29 January 2022, new changes to the Highway Code (HC) come into effect.

The new hierarchy for road users is as shown in the graphic above. Pedestrians first, then cyclists, then motorcyclists, then cars and vans, and finally lorries. This is based on who is likely to get the most damaged if any one of the other things hits them. And at this stage – as long as you don’t apply any reality to the situation – it makes perfect sense. Well, apart from the fact they left horses off the graphic, but more on that later.

However, the instant you do apply reality, you can see potential issues.

You see, the top three in the hierarchy consists of the vast majority of the population, who either aren’t aware that the HC exists, or who treat it as advisory even they do. And to make matters worse, the first and second groups in the hierarchy will become acutely aware of these changes thanks to the media, and a significant proportion of those will therefore push it to the limits.

Look at this example of something that happened to me while I was driving to a lesson a couple of weeks ago.

If that road was 30mph (or if he’d have done that in front of one of his neighbours in their Audis or low-slung Corsas who don’t recognise speed limits in the first place) he’d be in intensive care right now, or worse, But this is what cyclists do! And he got a mouthful from me out of the window.The new Highway Code rules

You see, the HC is changing like this. Whereas before, a pedestrian crossing the road at a junction was supposed to make sure it was safe and give way to anything turning in, now it is the pedestrian – one of those least likely to be aware of the Highway Code – who can just walk out regardless and it will be the driver/rider of the vehicle who is supposed to give way. And the hierarchy gives the same precedence to cyclists. I mean, we never see them jump on a pavement to skip lights and ride across a junction, do we?

Imagine the twat in the video above coming round a corner and colliding with a pedestrian being equally twattish by by just stepping out. In Broxtowe, Aspley, and Strelley (among others all over the country) it is deeply embedded in the single helix of their DNA to behave like that.

I’m just dying to see how that will be resolved, since the cyclist would have no insurance, and unless he hangs around – which he’s unlikely to do if he’s maimed someone and knows he was being a prat – there is little chance of finding him. Christ, the police can’t even find the boy racers and illegal off-road bikers in Strelley most of the time, so cyclists are well out of the mix on that one.

A lot of rear-end collisions occur when cars stop suddenly and the driver behind isn’t paying attention. Let’s be under no illusions here: drivers of cars, vans, and lorries can be as afflicted with stupidity as much as cyclists and pedestrians are. However, drivers tend to be more aware of the fact that if they hit one of the specimens of those other groups, they will damage them quite badly. But imagine driving into a junction as some prat walks (or rides) in front of you. The possibilities are endless, for hitting the pedestrian/cyclist, or having some imbecile ram into you if you stop suddenly.

This is a stupid change. Roads were built for traffic, and yet precedence is now given to pedestrians and Spandex fetishists with serious attitude problems, all because of the Green Agenda.

Oh, and horses. I have no problem with horse riders, since they almost invariably do not have attitude problems (those that do are in a small minority). I’m careful with them, and they want to be careful with me, and in all honesty, if they were first on that hierarchy I’d give it my full support. However, the number of cyclists with behavioural issues is close to 100% (though close to 100% of them don’t realise it). Virtually none of them care about anyone except themselves, and they should not be given this bone on which to gnaw.

Slide
Slide
Slide
Slide
Slide
previous arrow
next arrow
Share