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Independent driving explained

From 4 October 2010, learner drivers will be tested on independent driving as part of the practical driving test.

During their test, candidates will have to drive for about 10 minutes, either following a series of directions, following traffic signs, or a combination of both.

To help candidates understand where they’re going, the examiner may show them a diagram.

It doesn't matter if candidates don't remember every direction, or if they go the wrong way - that can happen to the most experienced drivers.

Watch a news report about independent driving on Directgov

Pass rates

Some newspapers have claimed that independent driving would lead to a fall in the driving test pass rate. This claim is based on early research where conditions did not reflect the eventual design of the new element of the test.

Subsequent trials with a larger number of participants and more closely reflecting the conditions in the planned new test showed no significant fall in the pass rate.

Length of driving tests and test fees

The length of driving tests and test fees will not change when independent driving is introduced in October. Driving test fees can be found at

Categories of tests

All categories of practical driving test will include around 10 minutes of independent driving.

For approved driving instructor (ADI) qualifying tests, this will be in the part two (driving ability) test.


From October, car test candidates (category B) will 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)

In addition a controlled stop is carried out on every test (this means stopping in a place specified by the examiner.) An emergency stop exercise will still be conducted on one in three tests.

Manoeuvres in all other categories of tests will not be changed. Candidates for the ADI part two (driving ability) test will still have to complete all the manoeuvres.

Special needs

DSA already 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. We are working with the British Dyslexia Association as part of our process of ensuring that we make the necessary adjustments for candidates with dyslexia.

For independent driving this could be asking the candidate which method they prefer for the section - in other words, following signs, or a series of directions (a maximum of three) which are supported by a diagram. In some cases this will be shortened to just two directions.

DSA recognise there are many ways of developing perfectly road-safe coping strategies in order to navigate from A to B and is satisfied that examiners will manage the situation accordingly. Independent driving is a significant road safety addition to the practical driving test but will not prevent candidates from holding a licence.

DSA is determined that no member of society should suffer detriment due to any change we introduce.

People who don’t speak English

Driving examiners are very experienced at dealing with candidates who speak little or no English and they’ll be able to manage the situation accordingly.

For example, sometimes this will include writing place names so it is clear to candidates where they are being asked to drive to. To help all candidates, when asked to follow a series of verbal directions the examiner can show a diagram, so that they can picture the route they’ve been asked to take.

Just as currently, the candidate can have an interpreter along with them on their test if they wish. Since 6 April 2010 ADIs have been able to act as an interpreter for their own pupils.

Routes, directions and sat navs

If the candidate goes off-route during the independent driving section, the examiner will get the candidate back on route and continue with the independent driving section wherever possible. The test won’t be terminated.

If the candidate looks like taking a wrong turning, the examiner will control the situation as they do now and preferably step in before the candidate goes off route. If that’s not possible, the examiner will help the candidate get back on route as soon as possible by guiding them with normal directions.

Independent driving is not a test of the candidate’s orientation skills. If the candidate goes off route, but does not commit a fault, there’s nothing to assess. Any faults that did occur would be assessed under the circumstances at the time - as usual. There is no change to assessment.

Independent driving section of the test

Download an example of an independent driving route diagram (PDF, 305Kb)

There will be times when, due to poor or obscured signage, the examiner may have to intervene. If this happens the examiner would say, ‘There are no signs here. Just continue ahead please’ and then, ‘Now, carry on following the signs to ……’

If the candidate asks for a reminder of the directions, the examiner will be happy to confirm them. Driving independently means making your own decisions and, just like when driving with friends, this includes deciding when it’s safe and appropriate to ask for confirmation on where you’re going.

Independent driving is designed to test the learner’s ability to drive unsupervised and make decisions without guidance and in unfamiliar contexts. DSA is therefore taking the opportunity to review the appropriateness of current route publication practices.

The independent driving section of the test is approximately 10 minutes when you will be asked to drive making your own decisions. A sat nav gives directions in much the same way as the driver trainer, or the examiner, so it’s not appropriate to use for independent driving.

Independent driving section of the test

Watch 'Independent driving in the driving test: what is it?' on YouTube

Guidance and paperwork

The DL25 driving test report form will not be changed when independent driving is introduced, as there is no change to assessment.

ADIs sometimes refer to a document called the DT1. This contains internal operational guidance for driving examiners in the conduct of driving tests. An updated version will be published on DSA’s corporate website at the beginning of October.

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Joanne Barton A.D.I., Dip.D.I.
Grange Park School of Motoring
20 Ellerbeck Close, Bolton, Lancs, BL2 3FW
Tel: 07702 223604