Before we go into any more detail about the test let's first be clear on what a hazard is and how your perception affects your reaction to them.
A hazard is anything that will cause you danger. When driving this means something that will cause you to take action such as; change speed or direction or both.
Perception is your interpretation of the information you are picking up. The correct interpretation is essential to you being able to respond with the correct action.
The hazard perception test is designed simply to check that you can recognise a developing hazard and can respond accordingly.
It's likely that you've used hazard perception many times in your life, so it's nothing new to you. The only new bit is applying it to driving.
Here's an example using a situation you may have experienced before. You're walking home when you see a group of kids making snowballs and think to yourself “yep, I bet one of those is coming my way, so I'll keep an eye on them.” You've just identified a potential danger and carrying on walking but with more caution.
What you're doing is gathering information and using past experience to interpret it. This forms your perception which then influences your decisions and actions.
As you carry on walking you see the situation developing as a couple of the kids point towards you and then begin throwing the snowballs at you. This potential danger has just developed into a real danger and you have to duck to avoid being hit.
When driving, instead of the snowball being the developing hazard it will be either a person, a vehicle or even an animal which makes you change speed or direction.
In real-life when driving, the potential hazard makes you check your mirrors and the developing hazard makes you press a pedal or move the steering wheel.
During the computer based test you register your response by clicking a mouse button.
As soon as you spot a potential hazard – click the mouse to record your response.
As soon as the hazard begins developing – click the mouse to record your response
This is important because the sooner you spot the developing hazard and click, the higher your score.
You're driving along and see there's a side road on the left - no click needed, but keep an eye on it just in case.
Potential hazard (I might). You see a car approach the end of the side road on your left and it comes to a stop, it might pull out – click (mirror check in real-life)
Developing Hazard (I will). As you get closer you see the car start to move forward – click (brake or steer in real-life)
A third click helps ensure that you haven't clicked a fraction too soon.
Developed Hazard (I am). In real-life further action might be needed.
My pupils know this 3 click method as “The Mighty Will.i.am Method"
If you know the song "boom boom pow" by the Black-eyed Peas try clicking to the same beat as the bit in the song that goes "boom, boom boom, gotta get that" We have a laugh about it (and I can imagine the look on your face as you read this) but it produces outstanding results.
This method also reinforces the real-life actions you take because when you see a potential danger you think "I might" have to react, when it is developing "I will" have to react and after it has developed "I am" reacting.
Go on try it!
The developing hazard has a scoring "window" that begins counting down 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 0 the moment the developing hazard appears. If you don't react soon enough you may miss the scoring opportunity completely.
There are 14 video clips, but there are 15 scoring hazards. This means at least one of the clips has two scoring hazards. You won't know which clip this is or which hazards have a score, so make sure you stay alert throughout and respond to every developing hazard you see. Some hazards require you to react quickly. These especially occur when driving around bends in the road or over the brow of a hill.
The key to being alert and spotting the dangers is to scan & plan and anticipate. Keep scanning from side-to-side and along the road, starting with the far distance, the middle distance and the near distance and anticipate danger by saying to yourself – What if?
What if there's a pedestrian crossing the road just over the next hill?
What if there's an obstruction just around the next bend?
Try to avoid clicking continuously or in a rhythm as this might be interpreted as cheating and the computer will give you a zero score for that clip. You shouldn't have to worry about this at all if you follow the previous advice of scanning, planning and anticipating and then clicking for potential and developing hazards as you see them (Boom Boom Boom).
Practising – You can of course practise by using the hazard perception CD-Roms and DVDs that are available. Recommended are Driving Test Success and Theory Test Pro. You can do these online too. However, a word of caution. You cannot improve your perception by going over the same clips over and over as once you've seen the clip you are testing your memory not your reaction.
The best way to develop your perception and reaction is to practise while out and about. You can do this as a pedestrian, passenger, cyclist etc. (People might look at you as a bit strange if you're walking around saying 'click' so it's best to do this silently in your head).
Check out the DVSA video in our Student Zone for more information. http://www.udidit.co.uk/#!student-zone/cx9