Research and analysis

The driving test trial: summary of Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) findings

Published 15 April 2017

1. Background to the trial

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) trialled some changes to the driving test with the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) between 2015 and 2016.

You can find out more about how the trial worked.

This is a summary of TRL’s findings.

2. Views and opinions of the new test

Views and opinions of the new test were almost all positive from those ADIs, test passers, and supervising drivers interviewed.

It was perceived as relevant to ‘real world driving’.

While interviewees accepted that it could not teach everything required to keep newly qualified drivers safe, it was perceived as providing a good basis for independent driving and decision making.

3. Those who passed the test

When compared with those who have just passed the existing test, those passing the new test had slightly more insight into their (relatively low) level of skill, and slightly more confidence that they would be a good, safe driver.

3.1 Using a sat nav

Those who passed the new test also had more confidence that they could use a sat nav safely while driving.

This confidence didn’t extend to using mobile devices for reasons other than sat nav functions. So, training learners with a sat nav doesn’t seem to encourage them to undertake other distracting activities.

3.2 Preparation for the test

Those passing the new test didn’t differ greatly from those passing the existing test in terms of their preparation. The only meaningful difference was that those passing the new test had done more training using a sat nav.

However, there was some concern about ‘training bias’ - that is, that the main trial groups might have both been trained slightly differently than would otherwise be the case because each ADI trained candidates for both the existing and new tests.

When compared with a national comparison group from test centres not in the main trial, the participants in the main trial groups undertook slightly more driving on country roads and dual carriageways.

So, it’s possible that the new test might impact slightly on the types of roads on which people prepare, giving them greater access to country roads and faster roads when supervised.

4. Test performance

The new test did not seem to be any more difficult than the existing test, either in terms of number of attempts to pass, or driving faults committed.

5. Post-test driving

Test passers of the new test did more driving with a sat nav in their first 6 months of driving than those passing the existing test.

5.1 Self-reported collision risk

The type of test drivers passed made no difference to self-reported collision risk in the first 6 months of driving.

This was the case even when comparing the new test passers to the national comparison sample, and whether using ‘proportion of crash-involved drivers per group’ as the measure, or ‘collisions per 1,000 miles driving’.

5.2 Near-collisions

The 2 main trial samples did report slightly fewer near-collisions in their first 6 months of driving than the national comparison sample.

This possibly indicates a slight safety benefit, although we can’t be sure if it’s due to the preparation received for the new test, or due to other specific differences about the main trial groups.