Is your theory test in the past, and do you want to go ahead and book your practical driving test? You probably want to book your time slot right away, but have you considered how adverse weather conditions could influence your results?
Many factors will influence your practical test result, but the weather will probably play the most significant part.
In this article, we will look at why winter months have lower pass rates, when is the best time to pass your driving test in the winter, and how the Drivers and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) want to help you to pass your test, even in winter weather.
Why Winter Driving Tests are More Difficult
Winter is unpredictable, and you risk having your practical test slot cancelled because of hazardous conditions and icy roads.
If your test centre confirms that your test is going ahead, you will have to drive extra cautiously. Even though main roads would be ploughed, residential streets can still have plenty of ice. There will be snowbanks along the curves, parked cars will be covered with snow, and roads will be slippery.
The best time to book your test in winter would be in the afternoon, as this will allow ice and snow to thaw, making driving a little bit easier.
What to Keep in Mind When Taking Your Driving Test in Winter
If your test occurs in snow conditions, make sure your car has quality tyres suitable for the snowy conditions. Tyres should have at least 3 mm tread depth to safely drive in snow.
All-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive
Cars with all-wheel drive are the easiest to control on slick roads as all the wheels are involved in keeping you on the road. If you do not have access to an all-wheel-drive car for your test, the second-best option is a front-wheel-drive vehicle.
It is not recommended to drive a rear-wheel-drive vehicle for your winter test as these push the car forward from the back wheels, which is much harder to control and more likely to lose traction and slide.
Following distance and speed limits
The recommended following distances and speed limits are when a practical test is taken under ideal weather conditions. Of course, the conditions are less than ideal in winter, meaning you should take extra caution.
You should increase the following distance to about eight seconds to allow enough time for braking.
The Weather is Bad: What Will The DVSA Do?
The main priority of the DVSA is to protect both the candidate driver as well as the examiner. Although driving tests are allowed during winter, the DVSA can cancel tests if road conditions are not considered safe. This includes road ice, floods, strong winds, or dense fog.
If you book your practical driving test in winter, you risk having your test cancelled. Naturally, the DVSA does not want to cancel and reschedule hundreds of tests, as this will lead to backlogs in future months. Therefore, they will allow testing to continue during winter.
Early morning tests have a greater chance of being cancelled, so we recommend that you book a later test during winter.
How the DVSA determines whether a winter test will be cancelled
Of course, it is frustrating when learner drivers have been waiting weeks or months for their tests, only to have them cancelled on the day. The DVSA will only cancel a test when absolutely necessary. You can contact DVSA’s customer support team to find out if your test will continue.
Your safety must come first
The DVSA has a duty of care to protect the driver, other drivers, and the examiner. It is only fair that all drivers are tested fairly and equally, and taking a driving test in bad weather will be a disadvantage.
Constantly assess road conditions
To prevent a backlog, examiners will constantly assess the road conditions and determine routes that are less affected by bad weather. Weather forecasts are continually assessed, and tests will only be cancelled if local conditions turn bad.
Snow is a hazard
Snowfall will affect visibility, making it difficult to see road signs, other road users, and road markings. The DVSA is likely to cancel a test on a snowy day since the road ice and slush will also impact the ability to perform driving tests well.
Things to Keep in Mind When Driving in Winter
Whether you are taking your driving test in winter or just want to learn more about safe driving in winter weather, here are some things to keep in mind.
Drive slowly. There is no need to rush, as this will put you and other road users in danger. Driving slowly during winter means you will have more reaction time, more braking distance, and a greater following distance behind the cars in front of you.
Don’t crowd other vehicles. Whether a passenger car, snowplough or freight truck, give other vehicles plenty of space to manoeuvre on dangerous roads.
The pressure in your tyres will drop in cold temperatures, so make sure before you drive or take your test that all the tyres are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Make sure to inspect your tyres before you drive, including checking for damage, wear, and depth of the treads.
Your battery power will drop along with the temperatures. Your car will also require more battery power to switch on, and its range will be reduced if you have an electric or hybrid car. Make sure to check your battery before the cold season, as well as during, to make sure your battery is functioning effectively.
Car safety technology
Your car will come with plenty of safety technology that will protect you while driving. Familiarise yourself with all the technology in your car, as well as with the warning lights on your dashboard, so that you can have the safest driving experience possible.
Why Summer is the Best Time for Taking a Driving Test
As we have mentioned, winter is probably the hardest season to pass your driving test. The months of January and December have the lowest pass rates, while the summer months have higher pass rates. Booking your driving test in summer may be easier, but you are likely to face much longer waiting times as most people will be booking during the summer months.
Despite this, summer has much better driving conditions and a much smaller risk of having your test cancelled.
During the summer holidays, there are usually fewer people around, which means less traffic and pedestrians to worry about while taking your test, and also no peak traffic, rush hour or school-run traffic to worry about.
When will I find out if my test has been cancelled?
Test centres will know in the morning whether tests will go ahead. Contact your test centre first thing in the morning to find out whether your driving test is still going ahead, especially if your test is early. If your test is in the afternoon, phone a few hours ahead.
Will my test be cancelled if the weather conditions are bad?
You will still have to contact the test centre to determine whether your test has been cancelled. If you decide to not show up because of the weather, but the test continues, you will not get a refund.
My test has been rescheduled, but it is months away. What can I do?
If your new test date is months away, you can get a fast-track practical test to jump the queue and move your test date forward.
Your local test centre will also receive cancellations from learner drivers, meaning test slots become available almost every day. A fast-track test is a driving test that is scheduled in one of these empty slots. Several companies can organise driving tests at the local test centre in these cancellation slots.
It is time for my test appointment, but it is snowing. Can I still take my test?
The DVSA is mandated to keep drivers safe. If they did not cancel the test and you feel too unsafe to drive, you will forfeit your refund. It is best to take your test if it is not cancelled.
Even experienced drivers can tell you how difficult it is to drive in winter. Taking a driving test in bad weather can be a harrowing experience, and studies show that it is harder to pass driving tests in the winter months because of inclement weather and bad road conditions.
If the bad weather persists, test centres will cancel test appointments to ensure the safety of the drivers and driving instructors. The best time to take a driving test in winter will be in the afternoons, as snow and ice would have thawed.