All practical driving tests include approximately 10 minutes of independent driving.
During the test candidates have to drive independently by either following:
•a series of directions
•a combination of both
To help candidates understand where they are going when following verbal directions, the examiner may show them a diagram.
It does not matter if they do not remember every direction, or if they go the wrong way. Independent driving is not a test of navigation skills.
Driving independently means the candidate making their own decisions - this includes deciding when it’s safe and appropriate to ask for confirmation about where they are going.
The independent driving route
If a candidate asks for a reminder of the directions, the examiner will confirm them. If they go off the independent driving route it won’t affect the result of the test unless they commit a driving fault.
If they do go off the route or take a wrong turning, the examiner will help them to get back on the route and continue with the independent driving.
If there are poor or obscured traffic signs, the examiner will give directions until the next traffic sign - candidates will not need to have a detailed knowledge of the area.
The candidate cannot use a sat nav for independent driving as it gives turn-by-turn prompts. Independent driving tests how they make their own decisions.
Number of manouevres reduced
Due to the time allocated to the independent driving section car test candidates only have to complete one reversing manoeuvre rather than two. The manoeuvre will be selected at random by the examiner from:
turning in the road
reversing around a corner
reverse parking (either on the road, or into a bay)
An emergency stop exercise will still be conducted on one in three tests.
The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has procedures to identify special needs and disabilities when tests are booked online or over the phone. The examiner then knows which type of special needs the candidate has, so reasonable adjustment can be made.
For the independent driving section, this could be by asking the candidate which method they prefer - following traffic signs or a series of directions (a maximum of three), which are supported by a diagram. In some cases this may be shortened to just two directions.
Driving examiners are very experienced at dealing with candidates who speak little or no English. For example, sometimes they will write place names so it is clear where the candidate is being asked to drive to. You can have an interpreter along with you on your test if you wish. Your approved driving instructor can act as your interpreter.
Click to see example of an independent driving route diagram