Well, I did have a test this morning, but the pupil had been contacted by the test centre to inform her that there wasn’t an examiner available, and that her test had been rescheduled in a couple of weeks – albeit at the God Awful time of 7.50am. Bastards.
The thing to remember is that not all examiners are in the prehistoric union, and not all those that are will be taking action. The problem is no one knows which ones will, and the dates of action are not known.
The instructor, a 46-year old woman, and the pupil were taken back to the test centre where the police questioned the instructor. They seized her Green Badge and reported her to DVSA.
Looking at the photos, there is evidence that the car had been rear-ended at some point in its recent past.
I’m not going to speculate (I’m sure some people will do that on the forums), but I bet the pupil isn’t happy. Having a clean sheet up to the point the test was terminated is no guarantee of having the same next time around.
And as for the instructor, it’s a perfect display of how to throw a career away. In monetary terms alone it would have been cheaper to have MOTd and insured the car rather than pay the inevitable fine this is going to result in. Factor in lost Green Badge, lost income, and increased insurance premiums – and probably extra travel costs as a result of a likely ban – and the full cost is almost incalculable.
This article was originally written in 2010. It was due an update.
Some time ago, a magazine printed an article which implied that driving examiners had been failing people for crossing their hands when steering. It seems that this came about because the then latest update to DT1 (16/03/2010) – a DSA (DVSA) internal guidance document – had added the following:
To ensure uniformity, when conducting car or vocational tests and ADI qualifying examinations, only assess the candidate’s ability to control the vehicle and do not consider it as a fault if, for example, they do not hold the steering wheel at ten to two or quarter to three or if they cross their hands when turning the steering wheel. The assessment should be based on whether the steering is smooth, safe and under control.
It is worth considering what the previous version (dated 28/04/2009) said on the same subject. I’d paste it, but I can’t – because nowhere in that document does it say anything about the method of steering!
I think what had become clear to DVSA is that a few examiners had been failing people for crossing their hands, not holding the wheel at ten to two, and so on, and there had been complaints made. DT1 now clarifies the issue. The paragraph quoted above pretty much states that this is what had been happening, so now there is uniformity.
I think the magazine should have clarified the situation, but in actual fact it gave the usual group of ADIs more anti-DVSA material. However, ‘crossing hands’ is something many ADIs just don’t understand, and I suspect this applies to the magazine editors too.
When someone who has never driven before starts to steer, almost invariably they keep a firm grip on the wheel when turning. Their hands might start at ten to two or a quarter to three (using the clock face to describe hand position), but by the time they have turned the wheel half a revolution or so one way or the other their arms are crossed, and they can’t go any further. Most turns at junctions require at least ¾ of a revolution of the steering wheel, so the pupil ends up going wide and panicking. Crossing hands in this way – with a fixed grip on the wheel – is obviously not ‘under control’, and it is why it is important to get them into a good steering routine right from the start.
That good routine usually begins with the ‘pull-push’ method – or as I often word it when prompting someone ‘shuffle those hands!’
‘Hand over hand’ steering is not the same thing as ‘crossing hands’, and it never has been. It is perfectly safe and correct for pupils to reach over past one hand when turning if they are in control. It is a natural extension of ‘pull-push’ in order to get faster movement. No one has ever said that hands must remain on either side of the steering wheel.
It’s a tricky and delicate issue. Many examiners were once ADIs, and it is obvious that misunderstandings will be carried over. That’s what DVSA addressed with the changes to DT1.
I mention this simply because I was reading a forum where someone made the comment:
I’ve noticed the xmnrs are a bit more relaxed with steering these days and the crossing of hands seems to be allowed providing car control has not been affected.
As I have explained, ‘crossing hands’ was never actually an issue. It was made into one by ADIs like this, and it is typical of how the magazine article was interpreted by a lot of instructors – even though nothing had actually changed. Any previous problems with test fails due to ‘crossing hands’ or not holding the wheel at ten to two was down to individual examiners not knowing what they were doing. It wasn’t a change in DVSA policy.
I must stress that all the examiners I know are perfectly capable. I respect them, and I have no issues with them at all. And if they record a problem with steering, then I am pretty certain there was something genuinely wrong and they weren’t just misinterpreting their own guidelines.
Why shouldn’t I turn the wheel when the car isn’t moving?
Moving the wheel when the car is stationary is called ‘dry steering’. The examiners do not mark you on it, so it doesn’t matter if you do it or not during your test.
Doing it unnecessarily is bad practice for various reasons:
it can damage your tyres
it can damage your steering mechanism
it can rip up the road if the surface is hot
However, doing it occasionally isn’t going to cause any serious harm.
Normally, your tyres are rolling as you turn the steering wheel and when you dry steer, they are scrunched over whatever they’re sitting on top of instead. You can feel the extra resistance.
Dry steering needlessly is something to avoid, but there is absolutely no way your car is going to spontaneously fall apart if you use it when you need to. It is perfectly OK to use it when you are doing the manoeuvres on your test. And if you’re ever boxed in when you’re parked somewhere, you’re simply going to have to do it.
Do you teach dry steering?
These days – for manoeuvres – yes. And I have no shame over it.
When I first qualified, I had many of the same pigeon-holed ideas that other newly qualified ADIs have. I purposely taught people not to dry steer, and back then I would have defended that.
Even so, teaching people to do the manoeuvres, with fine clutch control, continuous slow vehicle movement, and getting one turn or full lock on was sometimes problematic and led to variations in the finishing positions. But that came to a head one time with one particular pupil – Ida.
She simply could not get the reverse bay park right, because she couldn’t coordinate her hands and feet. We’d been trying it for weeks, and I had an idea which initially I intended just for her – dry steering. It worked, and she could now do it (notwithstanding her other problem of knowing which way to steer).
Over the next few months, I drifted into using it for everyone, and I have never looked back. But only for manoeuvres – I don’t like them practicing steering when we are stationary (I deal with that by taking control of the pedals in an empty car park and getting them just to focus on steering as I move the car slowly).
Is dry steering a driving fault?
Can dry steering damage my car?
If you were doing it all day, potentially, yes. But in real life driving you are going to have to do it whether you like it or not sometimes.
This is a complete rewrite of the original 2018 article. It applies to my own renewal process this year which – in the end – ran quite smoothly.
I received an email from DVSA at the start of April 2022 warning me that my Green Badge (my licence to teach) expired later in the year and would need to be renewed. It informed me that the first thing I needed to do was obtain an up-to-date Enhanced Criminal Record Disclosure. DVSA provided a link to the company which now handles this – First Advantage (FADV).
I immediately set about applying, only to find that FADV’s website was down. However, after some emails to DVSA and FADV, the latter kickstarted the process.
Step 1 is to complete the FADV online form. I made sure I used the date I passed my driving test (because of what happened last time) as the ‘valid from’ date, and that my bank statement was dated from at least yesterday (also because of what happened last time). My passport was my third document. Once I was happy with everything, I printed the form off.
Step 2 is to take the form, along with your documents, to a suitable Post Office to have it officially checked. Last time, the only office which did this check near me was the main Post Office in Nottingham city centre, which is an absolute pain to get to, and an even worse one to have to endure. Fortunately, it now seems that almost all small Post Offices (other than the really tiny ones in some village stores) can do this check, so I took mine to a local one I use regularly after checking (and was surprised to discover) that it provided the service. It’s called the Branch Verification Service, and you can find out which Post Offices near you provide it here.
Last time, they were intent on rejecting my application (the ‘valid from’ date on my driving licence being a major annoyance), and I had to make two visits – which I was not at all happy about. This time, they completed the check in less time than it takes to send a parcel.
I monitored the progress of my application, the trigger for which is when the Post Office approves your application. After about a week, I got an email from First Advantage informing me I had moved to ‘the next stage of processing’. The same day, I got an email from DVSA, advising me that my criminal record certificate had been accepted by the Registrar and I could remain on the Register until my current badge expired. It also clearly pointed out that I should apply for my new badge early in the month my existing one expires. I set an alarm in my online calendar for 1 October 2022.
A few days later, my own copy of the Disclosure arrived in the post. You need to make sure you don’t lose this, because you’ll need some details from it when you eventually apply to renew your badge.
All of this took under one month (and it would have been less if it hadn’t been for the usual issues getting a paper copy of my bank statement, which added over a week to the timeline).
Step 3 is the application for renewal of your badge. I began mine on 1 October 2022, and since that was a Saturday, nothing happened until 3 October, when it showed up as ‘pending renewal’. By 6 October, the expiry date on my licence shown by IRDT had changed from October 2022 to October 2026. My new badge arrived on 10 October 2022.
The renewal process uses the IRDT system, so make sure you are registered with it, and that you can log in, well before you need to do it for real. You will need the reference number and issue date from your Enhanced Disclosure in order to complete the application. Also don’t forget that there is a renewal fee of £300 (current for October 2022) to be paid upon application. There is also a GOV.UK link to renew your approved driving instructor (ADI) registration, which simply links to IRDT.
IMPORTANT: If anything goes wrong at any stage in all this, get it sorted quickly by phoning or emailing either FADV or DVSA. Do not let time run out. Make sure that each stage goes to completion and is not left hanging, because the next one won’t be triggered if the one before it has stalled.
I get quite a few queries asking what to do now when someone can’t log in somewhere, or has just left it far too late. One person a couple of years ago hadn’t even applied for their DBS at the start of the month their licence ran out!
Just a word of advice to anyone who is starting driving lessons.
Right now, in Nottingham, if you wanted to book a practical driving test and there were any not yet taken, you would be looking at March 2023 for your test date. It’s six months – and when new dates are added each week, they disappear quickly.
You cannot book your practical test until you have passed your theory test. The waiting time for these is much shorter, and I am advising my new pupils to pass it as soon as possible so we can book a practical test and work towards it (six months is usually more than enough for most new learners). I point out that each week they delay booking their theory test just adds another week to whenever their practical test will be once we can get one booked.
Driving tests are government-issued events. They are not like candy you buy from the store.
DO NOT search for how to do it on Google or any other search engine. If you are really so stubborn as to insist on doing so, go to GOV.UK – and nowhere else – and do it from there. Because if you DO go anywhere else, you will be scammed – at least out of some money, and quite possibly by not even getting a test. If you book through the government website, you get a test immediately (if any are available – if they’re not, you can’t book). If you are told they will ‘get back to you’ then you have been scammed, and it’s your own fault. Only GOV.UK can officially provide driving tests.
Yes, it is possible you might find a cancellation date sooner than six months hence. But this is in no way guaranteed – more people are looking for them than there are cancellations, so getting one is a matter of luck.
And yes, you can sign up to a cancellation checking service, but with these you have less control over the date and, in many cases, the venue. People who use them often get dates before they are truly ready to pass, often at as test centre they aren’t familiar with, so they fail, and then have to go through the whole process yet again, spending more money (and taking longer) than they might have done if they’d have just stuck with a normally booked driving test date at the test centre nearest to them.
It is also worth noting that DVSA is trying to block many of these services. After all, the dates available have to come from somewhere, and if the cancellation checker has them, you – and the tens of thousands of others learning to drive – don’t unless you pay the cancellation checker for them.
My only conditions concerning accepting cancellation bookings, however obtained, are:
it must be at Colwick, Chilwell, or Watnall – you can forget Derby and Loughborough
if it’s at Chilwell and you live in Hucknall, you’re not doing 1-hour lessons anymore
likewise, if it’s at Colwick and you live in Long Eaton, change it or find another instructor
if it overlaps with another test, I can’t do it
it must be when you are test ready – not before
if you’re crap with roundabouts right now, think twice about cancellations at Watnall
you are not just ‘going to have a go’ in my car
I don’t give a damn what your mum or dad has said
I am opposed to these services for the same reasons as DVSA. They are unfair on the majority, and they mess up learning schedules. I tolerate them – but not if the original test date of next year, which gave me time to teach someone to drive doing 1 hour a week, has been switched to three weeks away and they’re still beginners. And especially not if they then cancel their next two lessons (and yes, I blocked someone a few months ago for precisely that).
So, in summary. When you start your driving lessons (this is current for October 2022):
start revising for your theory test as soon as possible
book your theory test as soon as possible
do regular driving lessons
as soon as you have passed your theory, book your practical (assuming a 6-month wait)
do not book a cancellation date – you can try that later
accept that it takes time to learn, and six months is not that long once you live it
I had a test booked for next Monday, and when I found out that The Queen’s funeral was that day I wondered what would be happening – particularly as momentum has been building with planned closures by other businesses.
I just received this email:
DVSA services suspended on 19 September 2022 following sad death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Our thoughts are with His Majesty King Charles III and the Royal Family at this sad time. In line with National Mourning guidance our services will continue during the mourning period. We are suspending all but our most essential services on 19 September due to the Bank Holiday and State Funeral, allowing individuals, businesses and other organisations to pay their respects to Her Majesty.
We appreciate your patience and understanding during this period of national mourning.
We will contact your pupils with a test booked on 19 September 2022 to let them know their test has been suspended. Tests will be automatically re-booked for the first available date. If you booked a test for your pupil on 19 September you need to let them know that their test will not go ahead.
All theory tests have been suspended on 19 September 2022. We will be contacting all of your pupils who are affected to let them know how to choose a new date for their theory test.
ADI part 2 and 3 tests and standards checks
All ADI part 2, 3 tests and standards checks have been suspended on 19 September. We will contact all affected ADIs and PDIs with the earliest possible new test date.
You can move your rescheduled test on GOV.UK for ADI part 2 and 3 tests or by emailing email@example.com for standards checks.
There is no obligation on you to suspend your business during the National Mourning period. However you may wish to consider closing, especially on the day of the State Funeral, however this is your choice.
Our online services will be available as usual on Monday 19 September.
Originally published in 2014, but updated due to numerous recent enquiries.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people looking for test route information. Once upon a time, official test routes were published by DVSA (when it was still DSA) and available for download. They stopped publishing them in 2010, but that didn’t prevent people who had already downloaded them circulating them. In later years – even right now in 2021 – certain unscrupulous instructors and money-makers were even selling them at silly prices.
One major problem with test routes is that they change over time as DVSA adds new ones or removes others. They can even change on the day of the test for reasons such as roadworks or road closures. And unless they are being officially published you have no way of knowing if ones given to you are correct – or if someone has just cobbled together some old information into a crude list of road numbers and names and perhaps charged you a tenner for it. I can absolutely guarantee that many of those advertised on old-fashioned HTML websites are these original out-of-date lists. The other major problem is that deliberately trying to teach just test routes doesn’t get better pass results, but it does produce less able drivers.
You don’t really need to know the precise test routes used. All you need is a general awareness of key features where pupils might have problems.
It isn’t difficult to work out where the examiners go on driving tests, even without using technology. They’re never going to travel more than about 20 minutes away from the test centre in any direction, so all the roads leading to the test centre are going to be involved (minus motorways in most cases). If you know the examiners to look at, you’ll see them from time to time during your lessons, so you now know they use that road or location. You can also ask your pupils where they went after their tests, and although this can produce more confusion than it does answers, you might be able to extract a bit of useful information. The examiner will often give you some details in the debrief, especially where faults were committed. And finally, you can sit in on tests (when there isn’t a pandemic) and actually watch where they go. You can quickly work out which specific areas to concentrate on by putting all of this together into your lesson plans.
The best way, though, is to use some sort of tracking device, which logs the precise route taken by the car. These days, most satnavs have a feature which allows you to do this. Personally, I don’t like that method because it tends to be tied in with the satnav software, be satnav-specific, and it can be a right pain trying to download it and manipulate it on standard mapping software. The other problem is that you’re unlikely to be able to leave it running while someone is out on test, because the examiner will be using theirs, and thinking back to my old satnav years ago, it didn’t always get a signal if it wasn’t stuck on the windscreen. I’m not saying they’re like that now, but they are designed to be used in that position – and not in the glove box. And the other weakness is that the satnav is the recorder, so you have to wait until the test is over and you can grab it before you know where it went.
Dashcams are another way. The better ones also record GPS data, though often – like satnavs – you can only manipulate this within the camera manufacturer’s specific software. And again, you only get to see it after the event.
A third option is to use one of any number of apps for smartphones. These log routes in a format that mapping software understands. I’ve tried them, and they do work – with a few limitations. Firstly, you would need to leave your phone in the car when it went out on a test, meaning you’d be phoneless for the duration. A spare phone would work, but obviously this feature uses data, so you’d need a separate phone account. And when I tried them, the free versions of apps tended to be restricted to sample rates of 20-30 seconds – and that could mean a route through a junction and roundabout system might show as a straight line across a field or lake. If you wanted a 5 second sampling rate, you had to subscribe.
My solution was to use a dedicated tracker. I use a ProPod tracker from Trackershop. It’s a small device the size of a matchbox, which I keep in the car. The main feature for me, apart from logging accurate position and even postal locations, is that it broadcasts its location in real-time. This means that at the test centre, I can watch the car moving on a map overlay (either on my laptop or the Trackershop app on my phone). It also means that if a test were abandoned for some reason – and that hasn’t happened yet – I’d know exactly where to go to find my car and pupil.
The picture at the top of this article shows an old test route for Chilwell Test Centre (click on the image for a larger view). This is my tracker dashboard ‘history’ view, with a specific historical time period displayed (the duration of the test in question) on a map overlay. The picture just above (click it for a larger image) is the same route with the satellite view enabled. You can zoom in almost to the level where pedestrians would be visible.
The Trackershop cloud service keeps journey history permanently (as long as you have an active account), and you can download and edit data as necessary whenever you feel like it – you just need to to know the date and time of a past test, for example, then go and find that route in your dashboard. As I mentioned, you can view data in real time on whatever overlay you have chosen, and watch the pointer moving every 5 seconds while your pupil is out on test – I find this useful for knowing when they are due back.
The cloud data can be easily exported and downloaded. As well as GPS coordinates it logs times, speeds, and postal addresses for every data point. The picture above (click it for a larger image) shows the same test route displayed as a KML file rendered in Google Earth (note that I had to physically extract the GPS data to create this, but it isn’t difficult if you know what you’re doing).
As I have already indicated, you should not be doing your lessons across such precise routes. But they do give you an idea of where tests go.
Where can I download test routes?
You can’t download them from DVSA. The sites that offer them are provided by people trying to earn money from something that is otherwise simple to do yourself. Given that test routes change over time, it is probably cheaper to record your own.
Why don’t you provide your test route data?
A point of principle. DVSA stopped publishing them because instructors were trying to teach only the test routes, and I know full well that that’s why people want the information now. My logged routes are for my own use – I don’t stick to test routes on lessons and never have, but I want to know where the routes are so I can deal with any weird stuff.
Should I pay for downloadable test routes?
My advice would be no. DVSA stopped publishing them for a reason, and if someone is trying to profit from selling them then he or she is going against that. There’s a good chance you’re being sold old routes, anyway, and you would never know if they changed unless you kept on buying them every month or so.
How do I know the routes I’ve bought are correct and up to date?
You don’t, and they’re probably not. In fact, unless a local group of ADIs is giving you daily copies, they couldn’t possibly be reliable. In the worst case, they could be totally imaginary and simply cobbled together to be reasonably close to actual routes. Judging by some of the ancient-looking sites that list them, they’re quite likely to be the original ones that they stopped publishing in 2010. As I said above, routes change with time.
Is it possible to record test routes?
Yes. There are free and paid for apps available for both Android and iPhone which use GPS to record journeys. Similarly, there are numerous GPS tracker devices available which do the same (I use a Pro Pod tracker). If you use a phone app as a logger, you have to leave a phone in the car.
Absolutely not. The examiner will give you directions as necessary, or ask you to follow the satnav or road signs. However, if there are one or two awkward features – big roundabouts, steep hills, or so on – your instructor should know about them and make sure you know how to handle them well before your test.
How many test routes are there?
It varies from test centre to test centre, but there could be 10, 20, or more. When they were still published by DVSA (while it was still DSA), one Nottingham test centre had 38 if I remember correctly. You couldn’t possibly memorise all of them even if you knew them all. Being brutally honest, many learners on test might not recognise their own streets when out on test, so how can they be expected to ‘remember’ multiple routes?
Can I use my tablet to log routes?
Potentially, yes. If it has a GPS chip inside, it doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to the internet or a phone network to log GPS positional data, though it would if you wanted to use it as a satnav or monitor it in real-time. However, you’d need some software that could make use of the chip. It would also depend on your device’s specification as to how accurate the data were, but you’d still be able to get decent route maps – they just wouldn’t always be necessarily precisely lined up with the roads on maps you laid them on to. I understand they are accurate to around 6 metres or better.
From what I know of Apple iPads, only the more expensive ones with phone connectivity have GPS chips in them. The WiFi only ones don’t.