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Thursday 18 September 2014

L-drivers may have to take virtual and eco-friendly test

Published 07/06/2014 | 02:30

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Paddy Guiney, Clontarf, who is about to sit his driving test. Picture: Arthur Carron
Paddy Guiney, Clontarf, who is about to sit his driving test. Picture: Arthur Carron

Learner drivers will be asked to demonstrate eco-friendly motoring and will need to drive without instruction under radical plans to change the driving test.

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They will also be shown video to identify hazards on the road as part of a 'virtual' element to modernise the testing process.

Major changes to the test, which is sat 140,000 times each year, are being put out to consultation. It is 50 years since the driving test first became a rite of passage for motorists in Ireland.

Environmental concerns have prompted new proposals to assess "eco-driving techniques" as part of the practical test.

Brian Farrell from Road Safety Authority told the Irish Independent: "This would mark candidates on progression in driving, smooth gear work and controlled breaking. It's all with a view to being economical and saving on fuel."

The testing might also be conducted without direct involvement of an examiner.

"The tester will, of course, give a general direction. But the aim of this is to bring out natural, or real driving, without telling somebody to turn left and right all the time," he added.

"It's being used in the UK, Sweden, and Finland and there has been some good feedback from those countries.''

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and the RSA have also indicated that 'simulated testing' may be introduced for those trying to get their licence. This would be in addition to the standard road driving test.

If the new scheme goes ahead, it could provide an unlikely boon for young computer game enthusiasts.

"The driving test has saved thousands of lives by teaching safer driving. Teaching and testing standards have come on a long way over the years and we're now looking at new ways to make further improvements," said Mr Varadkar.

Testing in the future may include various visual exercises and simulations of real-time hazards that confront motorists.

The scenarios might include a school crossing with children walking across a road, a cyclist on a lane, or a vehicle doing a U-turn on the brow of a hill.

Motorists

The proposed "hazard test" would be broadly similar to the current driver theory exam.

While the Road Safety Authority (RSA) said it was too early to say if the test would be carried out through simulators, video or by using photographs, its main objective would be be to increase driver competency at a younger stage.

"It could involve a large computer simulator so the driver is sitting in a seat exactly like an arcade game.

"The idea is to expose people to hazardous situations in a controlled and safe environment which would act as a learning curve," said Mr Farrell.

A number of British companies already provide a range of simulated videos which which provide instruction on proper driving.

Mr Varadkar and the Road Safety Authority discussed the proposals at the general assembly of the International Commission for Driver Testing, which is being held in Dublin Castle, as part of a more widepread consultation process.

Irish Independent

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