Since October 2010, everyone taking a driving test in the UK has to do around 10 minutes of independent driving. During this period of time you will be required to, without instruction, follow traffic signs, a series of directions or a combination of both.
What does independent driving involve?
During your driving test, the examiner will ask to you to pull over before starting your 10 minutes of independent driving. They will then choose which method you will be performing the independent driving section with. They will either:
ask you to follow traffic signs and road markings to a specific place, such as the town centre. Or, give you three simple verbal directions. They will also – with this method – show you a diagram of the route they want you to take before you set off. If asked to perform independent driving with verbal directions, the diagram you are shown will be very minimal and you won’t be able to stop and look at it again once you’ve started your route. This example from GOV.uk will give you an idea of what to expect.
What if I go the wrong way?
The independent driving section isn’t designed to assess your navigation skills. If you go the wrong way, it won’t count against you as long as you continue to drive safely and respond to road markings and signs appropriately. Independent driving is aimed at preparing the candidate for driving on their own. It gives them a chance to show that they are able to follow a route without constant instruction, and demonstrates their ability to understand road markings.
Bear in mind that the examiner is allowed to confirm directions, so if, for example, you think you have been asked to turn left, you can double check. The examiner may also intervene, and tell you which direction to go if a road sign is obscured by, for example, an overhanging tree.
Tips for independent driving
Your instructor will help you prepare for the independent driving section of the test, and will probably take you on some trial runs. Whilst you should always try and stick to the directions the instructor or the examiner has given you, don’t fixate on the route. This may affect your concentration, causing you to miss vital signs or changes in traffic flow.
The examiner wants to see that you are capable of using your own initiative to get from A to B safely. If you think you’ve gone a different way to the route on the diagram, don’t panic. If you find yourself in the wrong lane at a junction or roundabout, don’t swerve or push your way into the correct lane. Instead, safely follow the route that you’re on.
Remember everything that you’ve learnt in your driving lessons – if your instructor has sent you to test, you are fully capable of driving independently!