Driving Test Un-Familiar Roads

One of the fears of many pupils taking the UK driving test is that they will make a lot of mistakes because they are not familiar with the route during the assessment, and so they ask their instructor to take them along the DVSA official routes during lessons to get familiar with the roads.

While this can be helpful for the test, the truth is that once you pass, you will still have to drive on unfamiliar roads, and you will still make those mistakes if you don't know what to do. While you might think I've passed my test so what does it matter? Well you could break the speed limit and get points on your licence and risk losing it under the 2 year probation rule of the new driver's act, you could be involved in an accident injuring someone/yourself or just damaging your car you bought with your hard earned money, so it is important you know how to deal with driving on un-familiar roads.

Yesterday I had to go to Dunstable for some personal business, had driving directions of how to get there, but obviously I was not familiar with the area, and it dawned on me how much more I had to concentrate on my driving just because of this fact! While I can't cover everything in writing, here are a few tips to help you.

Driving Test preparation advice


Get all driving skills sorted. If there is anything you are not confident with, then deal with it, rather than hope you would not encounter it during the driving test. I have heard stories of people pass their test, and on their first week of driving alone, they get into a situation where they have to reverse (or do a different manoeuvre), and just loose it and have to ask someone to help them out! While you are learning to pass the UK driving test, you are also being prepared to drive on the roads alone, and you need to know that you can do this without fearing that you might not be able to deal with a situation that comes your way. One of my fears when learning, was hill starts, and for this reason there was a roundabout near home that I always dreaded, not because I couldn't deal with roundabouts, but because if I stopped at the roundabout, I needed to do a hill start to move off when it was safe to go.
So make sure you deal with your weak areas as this will boost your confidence when out driving.



As an instructor, I constantly have to advice my learner drivers not bow to pressure from other road users during the driving test. When in Dunstable yesterday, it was dark, and as I approached some junctions I had to slow down a bit, as I wasn't sure of the road layout ahead, sometimes this meant driving below the speed limit and cars behind me catching up with me. This should not be a problem, as you should be more aware of what is happening in front of the car rather than the fact that there is car behind you. Whatever speed you are driving at, you need to be sure that you can react to what you can or cannot see ahead, so if you are driving at the speed limit, spot a hazard ahead or are not sure of what is ahead, then your first action is to slow down (after checking mirrors of course), access the situation, then once everything is clear or you fully understand the situation, make progress accordingly, this might mean staying at the reduced speed if necessary or going back to the speed limit you were driving at. Whatever you do, make sure that your actions are not dictated by the impatience of cars behind you.

Driving Assessment habits




Scan the road. This should be a habit that you use always. You need to be aware of what is happening right in front of the car, but also what is happening far ahead on the road, so get into the habit of scanning the road directly in front of the car, as well as the road ahead, you should be noticing things like signs, junctions, road conditions, markings. It is only by doing this that you will remain one step ahead in your driving test. Once you observe something, react to it, there is no point in saying I saw the sign if you don't obey it or use the information given on the sign.
Many people say they are never sure of speed limits on roads, you need to be observant particularly at junctions, as speed limits tend to change here, also check side roads, as you drive along, as these can give you clues to speed limits, if you are driving on a main road, and you pass a road with a sign with a 30mph speed limit on the entrance, then you can be re-assured that the speed limit on the road you are travelling is at least 40mph.
What is the spacing of lamp posts on the road you are travelling? Remember your theory test, what did it say about the spacing of these in built up areas where the speed limit is 30mph.
Not all dual carriage ways are 40mph, so check the repeater signs that give the speed limit.

Practise until you are comfortable with these skills. You need to practise these skills until you are confident of driving anywhere, so get your instructor or driving supervisor to take to areas you've not been before and practise these skills. Use your instructor to the maximum, and make sure you are always being challenged as this is one of the best ways you can make sure you are totally prepared for the DSA driving test.

Note: If you are in the UK, you should consider getting a copy of Focus Media's Driving Test simulator for the PC, which is a virtual driving test simulator based on the UK DSA practical car test, containing lots of real test route footage and simulations that you will find useful on the day.

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