You may have heard that the Public and Commercial Union (PCS) has expressed concern about the safety of the new practical driving test being implemented on 4 December.
I’m writing to reassure you that the issues that they raise have no foundation and that the safety of our staff, test candidates and the general public is our top priority.
I must also take this opportunity to say that the Agency are extremely disappointed that the PCS have failed to recognise the efforts being made by staff across DVSA to prepare millions of people to drive safely on our modern roads.
The test trials
During the last 3 years, the changes to the test have been developed and trialled extensively with input from representatives from driving examiners, learner drivers, instructors and other road safety professionals.
During the trial of the changes, over 3,000 new-style tests were completed at 32 driving test centres around the country. There were no reports of incidents. The feedback from the examiners taking part was overwhelmingly positive.
Our approach to safety
DVSA will always work with TUS to make improvements to our activities where evidence shows there is cause for concern.
However, their claims do not acknowledge the evidence from the trial, or provide any evidence that hasn’t been evaluated throughout the project.
Engagement with Trade Union Side
DVSA actively engaged with TUS throughout the project, providing ample opportunity for comment.
Assessing the risk of the changes
DVSA have assessed risk as we’ve gone along with the project.
DVSA carried out a risk assessment when we trialled the new manoeuvres.
A further risk assessment was carried out in July 2017, and yet further evaluations were conducted in September 2017.
DVSA also commissioned an independent report from RoSPA to assess the risk of the changes to the test. This concluded that all aspects of the new elements of the driving test were low risk. A copy of the RoSPA assessment is attached.
The RoSPA report states that DVSA provides examiners with thorough training and they are given good guidance on how they should carry out a dynamic risk assessment (DRA) for each element before and during the test. They also point out that examiners are already use to carrying out DRAs as part of current driving tests.
The DVSA risk assessments and evaluations, and the independent RoSPA risk assessment, do not identify any unacceptable risk. They therefore endorse the fact that there were no incidents recorded during the trial of in excess of 3,000 candidates.
The evidence simply does not support the PCS claim that these manoeuvres pose an unacceptable risk, or more of a risk than the current manoeuvres.
I’d also like to comment on some specific parts of the test.
Parking in a bay
It’s important that we assess a candidate’s ability to park safely in a car park. It’s a vital skill for all drivers.
In today’s traffic conditions, it’s highly unlikely that a manoeuvre in a car park poses a greater risk to safety than the current manoeuvres on the public highway.
Pulling up on the right
For the pull up on the right exercise, the examiner has a superior view of the immediate danger of oncoming traffic than for the angle start.
There is a process to challenge the suitability of cars used for driving tests on the grounds of poor visibility. A number of cars models don’t meet the rules to be used for a driving test because of the all-round visibility they give to an examiner.
DVSA know that some vehicles deploy airbags in a way that makes it unsuitable to put the sat nav on the dashboard. The instructions to staff are very clear - the sat nav must be positioned so it isn’t in the air bag deployment zone.
DVSA are also aware of the curtain airbag that features in the Citroën Cactus and Citroën’s advice to keep the dashboard free from objects. We’re talking to Citroën about the use of the dash mat and we’re awaiting a response. However, we’ve been told that it’s acceptable to fix the sat nav to the windscreen and are letting staff know about this.
Testing in cars without dual controls
PCS raised concerns with the risk posed by candidates taking their test in car that has not been fitted with dual controls.
The 2008 road safety research report ‘Cohort II: A study of Learner and New Drivers’ found that less than 1% of people who passed their test claimed to have taken no professional tuition.
Evidence also shows that the pass rate for those who take their test in their own car is slightly higher than those who take it in a dual-controlled car.
Engaging with our staff
DVSA have continued with significant engagement with examiners and their managers including:
- training days
- conference events
- test centre visits
- blog posts
- regular emails
- information posted to staff from both the Policy team and Operations line management.
This has provided ample opportunity for staff to feed back, and it’s been more and more supportive as staff complete their training and we near implementation.
To summarise, there has been regular engagement with PCS throughout the project, risk assessments have been done, an extensive trial (during which no incidents were reported) has been carried out, and a large scale exercise to train examiners and document how the test should be conducted has completed.
The risk assessment presented by PCS does not identify any risk that hasn’t been considered in the completion of our risk assessment.
DVSA’s aim is to help people through a lifetime of safe driving. We want to reduce the number of people being killed or seriously injured on our roads. We believe that the changes to the test will help us to do this.
We will continue to monitor developments that may have an impact on the driving test.
Head of Policy and Chief Driving Examiner