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ADI Survey: March 2014: Vehicle safety awareness, and the standards check

In March 2014 we surveyed 1056 Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs). The questions were predominantly about improvements ADIs think should be made to the Highway Code. ADIs could answer as many or few of the following questions as they liked. A zip file of the three press releases outlining the key findings can be downloaded here.

Diesel particulate filter checks are now part of the MOT. Should there be a question about this?

Key finding: ADIs were against including a question about diesel particulate filter checks.










Total Respondees


Newer types of vehicles powered by battery, battery and fuel, or alternative fuels like hydrogen are not mentioned in any questions. Check any of these if you think there should be questions about them.

Key finding: 64.6% of ADIs want to see questions about hybrid vehicles, but they are not as favourable towards hydrogen or electric-only vehicles.




Electric only, e.g. Nissan Leaf



Hybrid (electric plus petrol or diesel), e.g. Toyota Prius



Hydrogen (no commercially available models yet, but coming in 2015)



Other, please specify…






Total Respondees


Nineteen ADIs suggested LPG or CNG in the ‘other’ section

There’s a lot of newer technology in cars that isn’t mentioned. One positive outcome of educating drivers about the benefits may improve the quality of the vehicle fleet over time due to changing demand patterns. Select any you think should be included.

Key finding: up to 80.2% of ADIs want to see at least some form of modern vehicle technology mentioned in the Highway Code. The most common was engine stop/start systems (which will lead to fuel economy, but also present their own dangers), and reversing sensors. There was support for a broader range of vehicle safety technology knowledge, and a general belief that the Highway Code has not kept up with vehicle safety technology.




Blind spot warning systems



Lane departure warning systems



Cruise control (current questions are only for LGV/PCV)



Reversing cameras



Reversing sensors



Bluetooth phone connectivity



Brake assist and electronic brake force distribution



Trailer stabilisation



Engine stop/start systems



Adaptive (radar-based) cruise control



Other, please specify…



Total Respondees



Common other responses included automated lights and wipers, electronic handbrakes, and hill start assist.

The supporting material for this question about ABS which is visible once you answer it, doesn’t fully explain situations where the vehicle is already sliding and the brakes are applied. Students may be under the impression ABS will save them in all situations. In this case, vehicle stability control systems (electronic stability control, or ESC) are the optimal solution. Should DSA change the wording to mention stability control systems?

Key finding: 79% of ADIs support mentioning electronic stability control in the Highway Code to avoid a potential dangerous situation where a new driver may put too much reliance on ABS.










Total Respondees



Questions relating to car trailers swerving, such as this one, could make mention of technology that stabilises trailers in these situations. Should DSA amend the supporting information?

Key finding: 62.6% of ADIs support mentioning trailer stabilisation technology in the Highway Code.










Total Respondees



Young drivers are often not aware of crash testing regimes such as EuroNCAP, ANCAP (Australia) or JNCAP (Japan). Awareness may help them choose cars that are safer in accidents. Should there be questions to improve awareness of the star ratings for occupant and pedestrian safety?

Key finidng: 66.2% of ADIs supported building awareness of vehicle crash testing programs.










Total Respondees



There is one question related to affixing child seats within a car. It doesn’t mention ISOFIX (the standard for fixing points on newer cars). Should it?

Key finding: 69.5% of ADIs supported mentioning ISOFIX in relation to child seats. ISOFIX provides a secure fixing point.










Total Respondees


How do you feel about the current cost to take the test and get a licence?

Key finding: 59.6% of ADIs thought the price to take a test and get a licence is just right.




Too expensive



Just right



Too cheap



Total Respondees



How do you feel about the new standards check?

Key finding: ADIs are, in general marginally positive about the new standards check. 15.7% are definitely in favour and 38.1% think it might be better.




Definitely not in favour



It might be worse



Don’t care – it won’t make a difference to me



It might be better



Definitely in favour



I’d rather not say



Total Respondees



Are there any other questions you think should be updated?

The following is a sample of answers grouped into headings for convenience. Each bullet point is a separate ADI’s answer. Where an answer was fundamentally the same as another, it has been omitted, therefore this section does not intend to indicate the amount of support for any one particular viewpoint. There were total of 181 responses of which 157 contained suggestions other than those that essentially meant ‘no’. For ease of reading the responses are as the ADIs entered them, but with spelling errors corrected.

By far the largest group of responses was about the first aid questions, with the most of the suggestions being that they should be removed completely.

First Aid

  • First aid questions need to be relevant
  • They should remove lots of questions that have nothing to do with driving and replace them with relevant questions. All the medical questions concerning what to do at an accident scene, for example. These candidates are applying for a driving licence not a paramedic licence.
  • A lot of first aid questions should not be in the theory test as most people don’t know or have not done first aid.
  • The First aid questions should be removed as they encourage people with no training to have a go
  • Some first aid questions are out of date , so I am told by pupil who study first aid, etc
  • Better questions on first aid and what to do in event of an accident

Tyre tread depth

  • The dramatic drop in wet performance of tyre tread at treads below 3mm needs adding in.
  • Apart from legal limit of 1.6mm, add recommended minimum tyre tread 3mm especially during the cold / wet season. Many drivers are under the impression that tyres down to 1.6mm only are a concern when the car is due for an MOT!


  • Most batteries are sealed for life units so q ‘s about topping up with distilled water not necessary.
  • The current questions relating to batteries and their servicing are old. (I’ve used over eight cars for teaching and all came with sealed units). Could the questions be updated to check that the battery is secure, and the connections are secure.

Motorways and dual carriageways

  • Less questions on documentation, and motorways. By the time they complete their theory and actually do pass their practical those questions will be forgotten as they will never see the motorway or any of the documentation until they purchase a car.
  • Highway Code needs a proper section on dual carriageway roads.  The idea that they are similar to motorways is outdated and dangerous.  Current information is not definite, or specific enough for new drivers to master ‘their’ road, safely
  • I feel maybe more questions to do with the motorway rules and procedures in emergencies would encourage more drivers to study more on this topic and improve awareness when the pupil passes his/her test and make them safer on the motorways and better prepared because we know that not all learners when passed their practical tests will go on to take the Pass Plus course.
  • More should be said about motorways. As an ADI I have very little input for my students on motorway driving. A student passes and the next day they can drive on a motorway. Surely it should be compulsory that all students take a 2-hour motorway lesson

Braking distances

  • From experience my pupils put themselves under pressure to learn stopping distances when in reality when does anyone think about actual metres/feet, as long as they are aware of 2 sec rule and obs changes due to weather conditions I think that should be sufficient
  • I think braking distances should be revised, as more modern cars can stop quicker
  • Yeah, get rid of the braking distances in the theory test!  By the time you’ve worked it out you’ve crashed into the car in front !  The two second rule should be sufficient, too little drivers actually remember these figures !
  • Stopping distances should be properly researched on modern vehicle/tyre set ups

Driver attitude and behaviour

  • Questions relating to tiredness should stop talking about coffee. Firstly it is a very short term fix and apples are much better than caffeine and secondly you need to sleep so a power nap will be the best solution
  • Dangers of tailgating…anticipation of large vehicle’s intentions
  • I think there should be some question on the new laws on ‘middle lane hoggers & tailgating) should be included as it is a new law.
  • More relating to drink drugs driving, and speed
  • How to deal with road rage attacks and aggressive behaviour from other motorists
  • More references should be made regarding mobile phone use whilst driving and/or increasing penalty to 6 points on license.
  • The dangers of quad bike riders without helmets.


  • Why do all learners need to know so much about towing when they would be unable to do so.. Would it not be better to do a separate towing theory if they wish to take a towing test later.
  • I fail to see why cat b theory candidates are asked questions on towing as they cannot tow without doing an additional test. They need to be aware of the problems towing can create thus indirectly how it may effect them sharing the highways with vehicles towing, but not towing procedures, etc.
  • With regard to the questions relating to ‘snaking’ whilst towing there is clear evidence that in some situations, accelerating the tow vehicle will be more effective than decelerating. Maybe this question set should be removed entirely?

Eco driving

  • Tyres that use nitrogen helps fuel consumption

Hand signals

  • Hand signals should be abolished as most drivers on the roads don’t know them anyway.

Making it easier

  • A huge number of the questions are irrelevant to most learners who never remember the information that doesn’t apply to the car they learn in. The DSA is misguided if it really believes the current theory test with its endless repetition of questions assists learners in the long term. Once the theory test is passed, the vast majority of learners forget the questions that are not directly related to their learning experience. Their education environment is all about passing tests and moving on to the next phase and I’d suggest that’s exactly how 90% of learners feel about the current theory test – get it passed and forget most of it. The only truly relevant part relates to road signs and markings. Most pupils have no idea what a catalytic converter is! Adding the questions mentioned in this survey will be of no benefit at all. The DSA are barking up the wrong tree and going about the theory process in the wrong way. Leave this aspect to the qualified ADI to give in-car theory tuition based on the pupils actual driving experience.

Making it harder

  • I strongly believe the theory should be made harder and not multiple choice. This is an integral part of safe driving for life. There are far too many youngsters who are not reading the Highway Code just learning questions and even worse going into the theory test not having revised or learnt alongside tuition. Subsequently not applying to their driving whatsoever.

Changing the testing method or frequency

  • It is ludicrous that when they come out of the theory test there do not know which questions they got wrong and what the correct answer should be. What if the only question they got wrong was that they suggested taking the helmet off a motorcyclist at the scene of an accident. With a mark in their test of 49 /50 if they came across the situation in real life they would assume they had a 98 percent chance of thinking it would be right to remove the helmet which could result in a real death situation for the rider.
  • The whole system needs to be updated not just the questions. All drivers should have refresher sessions every ten years, maybe even a theory test – won’t happen as it’s a vote loser!
  • Not questions that should be up dated but definitely need questions that test their knowledge of Highway Code and how to apply it at certain situations. i.e who has priority when emerging from a side road at a crossroads onto a main road with traffic on side road opposite. Also at traffic lights with on coming traffic.  Also meeting situations with other traffic.  How and when to give correct signals when stopping in certain situations i.e stopping after a side road. From my experience pupils after taking theory test have learnt answers to a question but cannot or do not have the knowledge to apply it to real life situation. A little Knowledge is dangerous thing
  •  Try and make the situation type questions worded so candidates have to actually read the scenario to answer the questions
  • The questions are already complicated enough and many are not relevant to normal driving situations:    What we do need is a regular periodic re-test for all current license holders to ensure their poor driving skills are brought back to a safe standard. I suggest every 5 years minimum.
  • All of them !!  I personally think the ‘multiple choice’ system can be vague, misleading and inaccurate in some areas and the whole test should be reviewed for all licence groups.
  • The hazard perception test should be carried out during the practical test.  Although the student clicks at the right time it maybe pure luck or they preconceive something else warrants a ‘click’.  Also the end of test theory, the students should be told which questions they have got wrong.  Think about thee practical  test at the end if they have not met the required standard, they are at least given the opportunity to understand where they need to ‘brush’ up.
  • Personally I think the hazard perception test could be better designed. It doesn’t prepare students for real life hazard perception. It’s just a ticking the box exercise which doesn’t make any difference to real life driving or teaching.

Changing the learning focus

  • I think it should be compulsory that the theory test should be completed before a provisional licence is issued so that the student has knowledge of the road before they go on the roads.  The Pass Plus scheme is a waist of time as all the modules are covered before a test apart from the motorway lesson.  Students don’t want to pay for what they have already done. Also Insurance companies give no discount for the Pass Plus scheme. I’ve not had one student that had done the Pass Plus scheme.
  • What is really needed is a COMPLETELY new focus.  Questions should be less theoretical (why remember stopping distances); should address real safety issues/scenarios; case studies should be just that (rather than a series of unconnected but strung together points);  should require understanding and thought to get the right answer.

Questions about, or relating to, road users with disabilities, special needs or English as a second language

  • Some of the question are not suitable such as the specialist question about disabled car benefits.
  • The question bank needs a complete overhaul and rewritten in clearer language AND checked by knowledgeable experts in driving education and a GOOD understanding of Special Needs candidates.
  • Tactile paving, full and complete description about these is required. Only has a vague description (serious lack of information) mentioned in section 10 of the introduction.
  • Review the wording used and simplify them – such as gradient and use the word HILL instead  – – as pupils with learning difficulties cannot understand some of the question – there are several questions which use complex words which need simplifying
  • Not so much the questions themselves, but rather how they are worded.  I have a Filipino client who is alright practically, but really struggles to understand the theory questions.  When I tried to help him, I could see why….the wording in many more cases is more complex than it needs to be. We should use simple terms for those where English is not the first language!

Road positioning, maneouvring and junctions

  • Maybe more questions about road positioning and the reasons why and how g-forces affect vehicle stability, ie cornering and rural roads
  • I think filter lights/no filter lights at traffic light controlled crossroads is very important as many road users including qualified drivers do not understand that a normal green light on turning right does NOT give you priority to turn.
  • I think there aren’t enough questions about lane discipline in roundabouts, order of priorities in junctions, and I find very often pupils which just passed a theory test and have no clue how a national speed limit sign, no entry sign looks like, in general aren’t enough questions which would make the new driver be more aware of signs and road markings.
  • Yes, regarding right turns: it’s long been out of date or unnecessary to suggest that nearside/left-side turning is less safe than offside/right-side turning.  It shows a lack of understanding.
  • Mini-roundabouts.

Fires and fire extinguishers

  • The one about preventing fires – a fire extinguisher is used once a fire has started, sod does not prevent fires as is worded. Granted it could/would prevent spreading the fire.  Also the wording of the questions should be simpler, there are a lot of people with reading issues and the way some of the questions are worded is too complex….. It is as if they are to trick them not to gain their knowledge and understanding….
  • Many questions are WRONG.    E.g. The questions that suggest one should carry a fire extinguisher, when ALL Brigades state that one should get as far away as quickly as one can if your car catches fire.
  • The questions about car fires in tunnels are very misleading, they ask what you should do if your car is on fire then suggest you should drive it out of the tunnel, ok, we see where they are coming from but its the use of the word ‘fire’ that gets me. Smell of burning or smoke but if its on fire I’m out of it, tunnel or not!

Vehicle mechanical operation and technology

  • As technology and rules change the questions should be updated to reflect those changes
  • More basic mechanical questions should be added…
  • I think all info and technology in vehicles should be updated. Braking distances etc with new cars is a lot better than older vehicles, even how they behave in skids is completely different depending on whether it’s a front or rear wheel drive.  Technology is constantly improving cars and making things better so info should be constantly updated.
  • Show and tell questions should be updated to include refuelling the car. No Fuel no engine no point in asking the other questions.
  • The 19 Safety check questions do not include windscreen wipers and do you know when and how to them!!! – that should be question no.20.
  • Another tunnel question, what should you do approaching a tunnel……. A : tune your radio to a local station, excuse me we live in 2014 – dot matrix signs are far more up to date than local radio stations and also where should our attention be when we are driving!!
  • Questions about fuelling e.g. types of fuel super or regular. correct way to fill up and where to pull up next to a fuel pump.
  • Using a sat nav.  Reading a road map.  Using rds radio
  • Locations of jacking points,  consequences of low engine oil levels, coolant levels, etc
  • Not all cars now have liquid power steering, (show me-tell me)
  • Questions related to tyres should include not having a space saver & how to use the “gunk” to reinflate a tyre and that it MUST be used temporary only.
  • What is the correct position for placement of a screen mounted sat nav?

Questions that are too specific, geographically constrained, or out-of-date

  • Why ask so many questions on limited areas.. ie.. London stopping restriction areas. Trams (only in 2-3 places in this country).  Instead of asking about documentation using document numbers, try using usual names, ie registration document, etc
  • Why are tram studs included?  Minority question which majority will never see.

Speed, skidding, loss of control and crashes

  • More information about skid control and the causation of skids and slides
  • We should have a teaching base designed for new driver which include skidding and starting on mud area from DVLA.  As a new driver if he or she never test to skids with car, they will not believe how easy is to lose control of vehicles!
  • More questions about crash statistics. What percentage of young people crash in first year? What percentage die annually? By how much is your insurance likely to go up if you crash? Hit a child at 30/40mph and what are the chances of death/serious injury?  Make them sit through footage of crash pics and reasons for the crashes when waiting for theory to start.
  • Safety margins; stating that 2 seconds in the dry is a minimum, guidance that 3 seconds is safer.
  • Preparation for winter-snow-driving
  • Appropriate speeds on narrow roads re. meeting traffic
  • More questions about what information should be exchanged if involved in an accident
  • More questions should be asked regarding peer pressure, & taking responsibility for there actions ? Ref death by dangerous driving un due care and attention.
  • Speed awareness and the ability of the car they are driving to cope with their often overrated demands on that car.
  • More questions re: offences & penalties.   Update insurance benefits ie: Pass Plus & “Black Box”
  • Tractor speed limits. All the Police Forces have different ideas and very few people actually know. The result is tractors regularly drive 75 percent in excess of their speed limit on roads with short sight lined and no escape space. Speed limits for other vehicles are in the Highway Code – this needs addressing.

Emergency vehicles

  • More questions about how to behave correctly when emergency vehicles approach.
  • Response to emergency vehicles such as not passing over the stop line when on a red light when the emergency vehicle is behind.  police powers when car is deemed uninsured    Generally pupils are totally unaware of police powers if they are seen to be not in control of their passengers or even splashing pedestrians with puddles.

Lights and signalling

  • Fog lights at visibility of 100m or less would apply to driving on motorways or dual carriage ways, not in town traffic. Too many instructors ask their students to switch on fog lights where they have no effect to added safety but merely dazzle other road users. Required answer should be “REAR fog lights should be switched on when vehicles in front of me only become visible at the required gap or less than the required gap”. The candidate should also need to explain that front fog lights only serve to better illuminate the side of the road on dark country lanes and off road in badly reduced visibility. If fitted, front fog lights used otherwise can confuse and dazzle other traffic.
  • Not just questions but the highway code itself needs to reflect current driving practise in respect to flashing headlights.  Everyone uses this to indicate to others their willingness to allow the other divers to proceed.
  • Street lighting rules regarding the 30MPH speed limits accompanied by a large diagram  Also greater information on 20MPH speed limits that are currently sweeping the UK.
  • Use of hazard lights when suddenly stopping on major road to warn following traffic.

Instructors and training

  • Students are surprised that I point out the number of instructors on the road that do not have or display a DSA green badge in the screen! More emphasis should be made to students to pick and instructor who clearly displays a badge and not duped to taking lessons from a famous franchise or back street instructor not qualified to teach (people take 3-4 tests and wonder why they fail!!)
  • ‘Secret customers’ would be ‘real’ way to see if a driving instructor is giving ‘real’ lessons and guarantee the first 2 hours lesson to be a good quality for everyone, rather than one real lesson every 3 to 4 years
  • Make aware of training available after test to continue road safety


  • As a LGV driver I would like to more questions about the dangers of overtaking and undertaking lorries; also about LGV driver’s blind areas and drivers are often frustrated when following lorries on A roads they are not aware that they are restricted to 40mph and many other danders
  • I would like to see a mention on how to pass horse riders safely on the road. I feel there is a lot about passing cyclists but not enough about passing horses. A horse is an animal with a mind of its own it doesn’t necessarily go where you put it like a machine, so therefore can be quite unpredictable and needs drivers to pass it with caution.
  • The dangers of motorcycles overtaking stationary or queuing traffic at traffic lights especially on the wrong side of the road.


  • Questions relating to flooded roads/depth of water at fords should be included.  Currently only questions are what to do after passing fords!
  • There should be questions that remind the pupil to always be aware that other road users can often do unexpected things and to be ready for anything. For example: How can you avoid the need to do an emergency stop? Always look ahead and to the sides for any developing hazards and adjust your driving as early as possible.
  • Yes the stop! sign is now sometimes in a yellow rectangle so it can not be recognized by its shape if it is covered in mud or snow
  •  Yes, why ask question about SORN stick to question that directly effect road safety.
  • Help with scanning and planning ahead. things they should be looking out for whilst driving. this will help the student spot hazardous quickly and react accordingly
  • More cockpit drill questions. Safety checks and observation/mirror questions should be added.
  • Questions about definition of double/single yellow lines would be appreciated. A staggering number of learners and full licence holders believe that double (single when in force) yellow lines mean “no stopping”, which is incorrect and different to “no waiting, no parking”. Even many instructors seem to be uneducated about this!!
  • One thing that annoys me about HWC is that it uses the term ” Right of Way” instead of “Priority” when refering to junctions… Everyone has a right of way, but priority means who goes first.


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