Learners on the motorway - A testing timeline

Posted on 04 June 2018 by CarTakeBack

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From today, 4th June 2018, driving instructors will be able to take their students out for lessons on motorways.

Learner drivers are now able to drive on the motorway as long as they are with an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI), and are driving a dual controlled car. The change has been praised by ADIs as having lessons on a motorway will increase the learner's confidence, and give them more proficiency when they have passed and are driving alone for the first time.

This is the first major shakeup of the way people learn to drive in a while, so we thought we'd take a look back at the history of the driving test in the UK.

Learner driver on the motorway. Changes in UK driving law June 2018

1930 - Road Traffic Act 1930 introduced

Licences introduced for public service vehicles, as well as driving tests for disabled drivers, which gave them a licence to drive for one year.

1934 - Lorry driver licences

Lorry drivers were now required to have a licence. The person applying for the licence could be asked to prove their ability with a practical driving test before being given one by the licencing authority.

1935 - Public testing

On the 16th March the Government introduced voluntary testing for the public. This was because compulsory testing was being introduced later that year, and they wanted to avoid a backlog of people applying.

Compulsory tests for anyone who started driving after March 1984 came in to force on the 1st June, and 'L' plates were required for anyone who was buying a licence and waiting for their test.

1939 - 1946 - Driving tests suspended

For the duration of World War 2 driving tests were suspended. This is because the examiners were deployed onto traffic and fuel ration supervision duties.

London during the Blitz. Driving tests were suspended

Image: London during The Blitz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

1956 - 1957 - Suez Crisis

From 24th November 1956 to the 15th April 1957, driving tests were suspended again, so that examiners could help administer petrol stations. Learners were allowed to drive unaccompanied.

1965 - Medical standards

The distance that learners had to be able to read a number plate from became 67 feet for plates that had 3 1/8 inch high characters.

1969 - Major shake up

On the 2nd June several big changes were introduced to the driving test. Vehicles used during the test were no longer allowed to have working dual accelerator controls. The grouping of vehicle specifications for tests was introduced, including one for automatic cars. Examiners were now required to ask to see the candidate's provisional driving licence, and for the candidate to sign the attendance record.

1975 - Arm signals

Up until May 1975, drivers had to demonstrate arm signals during their tests. The changes introduced in this year meant they were no longer required.

1990 - Faults and supervision

The practice of examiners giving candidates a brief rundown of the faults committed during the test, and advice for improvement, was introduced in May. From October 1990 anyone accompanying a learner driver must have held a full driving licence for 3 years and be at least 21 years old.

1996 - Theory tests

Replacing questions asked about the highway code whilst on the practical driving test, a written theory test was introduced on July 1st.

1997 - Waiting times and probation periods

From June 1997, if a new driver got 6 or more penalty points on their licence during their first 2 years of driving, their licence is revoked and they must take both the theory and practical tests again. Later in the year a waiting time between tests was introduced for unsuccessful candidates. 10 days wait for car and motorcycle tests, and 3 days for lorry and bus driver testing.

1999 - Emergency stops

In 1999 the length of the driving test was increased, and the emergency stop was now randomised.

Still from hazard perception test demo from Gov.UK

Image: Still from UK hazard perception test demo from UK Government.

2002 - 2003 - Hazard perception and car knowledge

The hazard perception part of the theory test was introduced in 2002, and the 'show me, tell me' vehicle safety questions were added to the beginning of the practical test in September 2003.

2010 - Independent driving

Candidates were now required to drive for 10 minutes making their own decisions, as part of the test.

2017 - Satnavs and manoeuvres

In December 2017 following directions from satnavs was introduced into 4 out of 5 tests. This change also meant that the independent driving segment of the test was doubled to 20 minutes. The 'tell me' question is now asked whilst the candidate is driving, and the 'reverse around a corner' and 'turn-in-the-road' manoeuvres are removed from the test all together.

2018 - Motorways

The 4th June brought in the rule changes that mean learners can now drive on the motorway with their instructor in a dual control car. Though motorways aren't part of the driving test, is this a sign of more changes to come?

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