A Driving Instructor's Blog

I cannot believe how many hits I’m getting for “independent driving test routes” and “independent driving maps”. People are obviously very worried about this.

You do not need to be – whether you are an instructor or someone whose test is coming up.

On your test, the examiner is going to ask you to drive somewhere. He’ll say something like “I want you to drive to Smallsville, following the road signs” or “follow the road signs to Smallsville”.

Independent Driving - Example 2
Independent Driving – Example 2

Alternatively, he may ask you to follow a route he gives you of up to three or four separate turnings at junctions or roundabouts (I say four, but three is likely to be the absolute maximum, and some people will get away with two or even less).

He may show you a simple map like the one on the left to help you visualise the route.

It is absolutely essential that you understand you are NOT being tested on how well you remember the route.

If you ask for confirmation at each turn it doesn’t matter. Asking “was it left here?” or “am I going that way?” is not a fault – as long as you do it correctly.

If you keep stopping to ask to see the map again, or confirm the route, it doesn’t matter – as long as you do it safely and correctly. Can you see the pattern developing here?

If you go the wrong way, it doesn’t matter – as long as you do it correctly.

We’re not talking about from Nottingham to London or anything. It’ll take about 10 minutes for him to explain it and for you to do it.

What you are being tested on is how you drive when you are not artificially told which way to go – which is exactly what you will have to do the second you get in your own car after you pass your test.

You see, when your instructor (or the examiner) says “take the next turn on the left” it is a verbal cue to look in your mirrors, signal, and then carry out the turn. You won’t get this when you’re out alone, and that is why the test is being changed to include a section where you can be assessed on it. Looking at a few road signs or following a simple route is what proper driving is all about.

If a candidate has been taught properly – and this includes anyone with special needs – they will be able to do this simple part of the test without any real trouble at all. If they can’t, then they either haven’t been taught properly or are not safe enough to be allowed out on the roads (not yet, at least).

Don’t listen to any of the nonsense being put out about independent driving. It is a good idea and addresses a very real problem.

I have always made my pupils drive like they will when they get their own cars, so for me it isn’t much of change – and that is probably why I am so upbeat about it. But it shouldn’t be much of a change for other instructors, either.

The simple fact is that if it IS such a problem to some instructors, then they need to pull their fingers out instead of just whittering on about changes they don’t like!

Yes, you could say it makes the test harder, but only for people who would have been borderline passes in the first place. But as I said, if they’ve been taught properly it is just a complete non-issue.

Oh. One more thing. As I have already mentioned in this story, they are not going to be publishing driving test routes any more – and that includes the independent driving routes. It shouldn’t be a problem for anyone who teaches properly – or for anyone who can drive properly. And in any case, it would be simplicity itself to find out from your own pupils what they had to do on their tests and work things out from there.

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