Using a Sat Nav On The Driving Test
In this article
Why was the driving test changed?
The DVSA changed the driving test to ensure new drivers have all the skills they need for a lifetime of safe driving. The general idea is to prepare candidates for what it’s like to drive on their own. The DVSA looked a how drivers behaved outside of test conditions and updated the driving syllabus and test to mirror how people genuinely drive.
What did the DVSA change in the driving test?
In December 2017, the DVSA made 4 major changes to the driving test;
- Independent driving was increased to 20 minutes, essentially half the test.
- Candidates now have to follow directions from a sat nav.
- The examiner will ask you to perform one of three driving test manoeuvres.
- You now have to answer the ‘show me’ question while driving.
Following a sat nav on your driving test
Each candidate is required to drive independently for 20 minutes on their driving test. 80% of candidates will follow a sat nav, while the other 20% will follow road signs and markings. The driving examiner will provide the sat nav for your test, and it comes with a pre-selected driving test route, so you won’t need to touch or program it.
Why was it added to the driving test?
Sat navs can sometimes give confusing information, and if you don’t practice with your instructor when learning to drive, you could find yourself in a spot of bother when using a sat nav as a full licence holder. Now that following a sat nav has been added to the test, driving instructors must teach their students how to use the device safely before they book a driving test.
What type of sat nav will you follow on your driving test?
The sat nav used on the driving test is the TomTom Start 52. The device comes with Advanced Lane Guidance designed to help you choose the correct lane for the direction you plan to travel in.
The TomTom Start 52 is affordable, you can pick one up for around £120, and they’re available from Amazon, Halfords and Currys. You can also find it at other retailers if you’re willing to shop around.
Sat nav settings
Most sat navs come with a range of different settings for you to choose from, and you can personalise your settings to suit your preferences. When practising for your test, however, we suggest you stick to the settings used by the driving examiners, so your training mimics the test as closely as possible. Here are a few settings to keep in mind;
Yards vs meters
The sat nav issues all directional instructions in advance, giving you time to plan your next move. On your driving test, the device will calculate the distance till your next instruction in yards, not meters.
When practising for your test, you can switch the sat nav from yards to meters, but we recommend sticking with yards, as this is what you’ll encounter on your driving test.
If you struggle to get your head around yards, just remember that 1 yard is equal to 0.9144 meters.
If you’re having a sat nav lesson with a friend or family member, make sure they’ve turned on voice instructions. Sat navs have a setting where you can turn off these instructions and just follow the map, and lots of people choose to do this as the voice instructions can get repetitive.
Although many drivers find it more convenient to drive without voice instructions, we recommend keeping them on, as the sat nav you’ll follow on your test will have this setting activated.
Our top tips for using a sat nav on your driving test
It’s normal to feel a bit concerned about the independent driving part of the test. Many candidates do, which is why we’ve put together these sat nav driving test tips to help you ace this section of the test. Our top tips are as follows;
Position the sat nav wherever it suits you best
The examiner will place the sat nav on the dashboard at the start of the test. Ideally, the examiner will put it in a suitable position, but you can ask the examiner to place it elsewhere if you don’t like the original spot.
Ignore the speed the sat nav says you’re travelling at
The sat nav is a handy piece of kit. However, it has a few limitations that you need to be aware of on your driving test. One such flaw is that it doesn’t always accurately track how fast you’re travelling.
The sat nav gives a reading for this, but the reading can differ from what’s on the car’s speedometer. If you use the speed on the sat nav instead of what’s on the speedometer, you could break the speed limit and fail your driving test.
The examiner will use reading on the speedometer, so you should use this as well.
Ignore the speed limit displayed on the sat nav
The sat nav will also tell you the speed limit of the road you’re on, but sometimes the speed limit it displays is incorrect. Similar to the point above, but if you break the speed limit or travel slower than you should because you’re looking at the sat nav, you could fail your driving test.
To avoid this, look for speed limit signs and road markings on the road ahead and ignore the speed limit sign that appears on the screen.
Look out for road closures and diversions
The examiner will preload the sat nav with your driving test route, and in the majority of cases, this route should be straightforward and free of anything unexpected. Occasionally, a road might be temporarily closed, or a diversion might be in place that the sat nav might be unaware of.
If this happens on your driving test, the examiner will tell you what to do, but if you’re not paying attention, you could rush into the hazard and force the examiner to intervene.
Assess whether you need to signal
You need to keep in mind that sat navs can often give confusing instructions. For example, on a slightly staggered crossroad that you plan on driving straight ahead at, the sat nav could tell you to turn right then left or vice versa. If you signal when driving ahead at this type of junction, it would be considered misleading, and your driving test would end.
Similarly, the sat nav could tell you to bear left or right, when in fact, you need to signal in either direction as it’s a turn. If you treat a turn as a bend and decide not to signal, that could also lead to a failed driving test.
Glance at the screen
Don’t rely on just what you hear from the sat nav. If you’re only listening to the instructions, you could misconstrue a direction and end up making a mistake. Take short glances at the screen and avoid staring. Try to take in as much information as possible with each glance, but remember, taking your eye off the road for even a few seconds could be dangerous.
Don’t panic if you take the wrong direction
If you’re under instruction from the examiner, following signs or following the sat nav, remember, you can’t fail your driving test just for going the wrong way. If you miss a direction, try not to panic. As long as you’re driving safely, you won’t pick up any driving faults. If this happens on your test, either the examiner or sat nav will redirect you back onto the test route.
Use the sat nav to build up a picture of the situation around you
The sat won’t tell you everything you need to know about the road ahead. However, you can use its information to build up a picture of the road around you. Look out for intersections, adjoining roads where other road users can suddenly appear and use the shape of the road on the screen to position your vehicle.
Sat navs can improve your decision-making process
If you use the sat nav correctly, it can improve your decision making. For example, if you’re in a residential area and the sat nav tells you to turn left or right at the end of the road, you could anticipate having to drop into first gear to join the new road. If you plan ahead, you can get into the correct gear before the give way line and join the new road without stopping if it’s safe to do so.
This technique reduces the chances of you picking up a fault for undue hesitation on your driving test.
As you approach the end of your test, it can be easy to switch off, especially when the sat nav says you’re close to your destination. As you near the test centre, try to keep your focus as it’s easy to pick up a fault if you let your mind race away from you.
You must use the sat nav the examiner provides. You’re not allowed to use your own device, and if you do have one in your car, you must switch it off for the duration of your test.
The sat nav will be on for the duration of your test, but you will only need to follow it once the examiner asks you to. The examiner will ask you to pull over before they instruct you to follow the sat nav, and you must wait until this point to begin doing so.
Unfortunately, you can’t choose which route you follow on your driving test. If you could, we’re sure the pass rate would be much higher than it currently is! The examiner will preload the sat nav with your test route, and candidates can’t influence which route gets picked.