Friday, 25 June 2010

Drink-Driving Laws Should Be Tougher, Says Report

Sir Peter North recommends cutting legal limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.

A government-commissioned report [pdf] has called for Britain's drink-driving laws to be toughened to a level that would put some people over the limit after one drink.

In the first review of drink-driving laws for 34 years, Sir Peter North recommends cutting the maximum legal limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg. Drivers found with this lower level in their blood, which for some people would represent a single glass of wine or a pint of strong beer, would face a 12-month driving ban, as they do now.

North stressed that most drivers could still have a drink without infringing the new limit. The government said it would consider all of his 51 recommendations.

The report cites figures from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, which estimates that as many as 168 lives could be saved in the first year of a reduced limit.

North said the public supported tougher limits. "Research conclusively shows the much higher risk posed by drink driving. With a blood alcohol level between my proposed new limit of 50mg/100ml and the current 80mg/100ml limit, a driver has a six times greater risk of road death than a non-drinking driver. The public is ready for a lower limit."

If adopted North's proposals would bring Britain's drink-driving laws into line with most European countries. In seven countries – Sweden, Poland, Belgium Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary – any drink-driving is effectively banned.

"Great Britain is almost the only European country to continue to have a

BAC limit above 50mg/100 ml," the report says. It points out that Britain's 12-month driving ban is tougher than the European norm.

North, who was commissioned by the former transport secretary Lord Adonis, called for improvements to drug-driving laws by allowing nurses as well as doctors to authorise blood tests of suspects. He recommended the development of a roadside saliva test of those suspected of driving having taken drugs.

North ruled out a 20mg alcohol limit for young and new drivers but said this possible lower limit should be looked at again after five years. The report says cars of high-risk drink-drive offenders should be targeted and coroners should test for drugs in all road deaths.

The transport secretary, Philip Hammond, said he would "carefully consider" the report but would balance it against the possible damage to the drinks industry.

"It is important that we fully investigate the economic and public service resource impact of any suggested changes to the law, taking account of the financial and economic situation.

"Our priority will be to tackle drink and drug-driving in the most effective way possible to protect law-abiding road users."

Drivers' groups and safety campaigners welcomed the report. The AA president, Edmund King, said: "Our members want action on drug-driving and also support a reduction in the drink-drive limit, together with a 12-month ban."

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The message needs to be sent that drug-driving is as socially unacceptable as drink-driving. Tougher regulation will help underline this."

Alan Kennedy, chairman of Road Safety GB, which represents more than 200 local authority road safety groups, said: "Each year hundreds of people die at the hands of drink-drivers, yet the UK has some of the most lenient drink-driving laws in Europe. We are one of only five countries in the EU with a legal limit of 80mg.

"This is a great opportunity to significantly reduce the number of deaths on our roads and we urge the government to accept the North findings."

Source : Matthew Weaver -

BSM Thinks Pink To Calm L-Test Nerves

BSM, a major motoring school, is using pink Fiat 500s because it claims their paintwork calms learner drivers.

The company quotes research showing that pink has a relaxing effect on physical behaviour, reducing anxiety within minutes of exposure to the colour, helping to steady nerves.

The pink Fiats will be located in London, Bristol, Manchester and the south-east.

According to the Institute of Biosocial Research in Tacoma, Washington, USA, pink helps heart muscles relax, promoting slower and deeper breathing, leaving novices relaxed but alert.

This apparently allows the learner to "be in a more receptive state of mind" so that they can absorb and respond to information from their instructor.

BSM has also worked with colour therapist Suzy Chiazzari, who said: "Pink expresses our ability to actively carry out a task in a positive and relaxed manner while keeping the goal in mind.

"This research helps indicate that the pink BSM Fiat 500s will increase success rates for learner drivers."

Friday, 18 June 2010

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.

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)

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.

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 approved by the British Dyslexia Association. 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." target="_blank">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.

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.