If you’ve been on your learner’s permit long enough and also completed your required logbook hours, then it’s time to overcome one of the major hurdles toward getting your P1 licence: the Hazard Perception Test (HPT).
We’ve compiled this handy guide to explain what the HPT is, how it works, and what you can do to make sure you know how to appropriately respond to hazards when you encounter them.
Passing the HPT is a major step toward getting your licence, but it’s not just about the achievement. Learning how to correctly identify hazards is necessary to ensuring you stay safe on the road, and at the end of the day no matter how good you are at driving, you need to be able to identify a hazard to respond to it.
So let’s look at what the HPT is, why it’s important to stay alert, and what you can do to make sure you smash the test - and not your car.
What is the Hazard Perception Test?
The HPT is a computer based test that uses a touch screen to measure how well a learner driver identifies, and then appropriately responds to dangerous situations on the road. You don’t need to have any technical computer abilities to undertake the HPT, and you may not be assisted during the test.
During the test you will be required to watch and respond to a number of scenarios depicted as videos, within a designated amount of time. Both the number of questions and duration of test may vary by state.
What do I do during the test?
During the test, students will watch a series of short videos from the perspective of cars in various real-life situations, and are required to identify any hazards that present themselves and then indicate when they believe the driver of the vehicle should respond to the hazard.
Dashboard information (such as speed of travel and indicator usage) will be shown on the screen, and you will be told the intentions of the driver for each video during the test. The test is purely perception and timing based, and does not require the test participant to actively control a vehicle at any time during the test.
Great, so how do I pass the HPT?
The test itself is incredibly simple, but you are still required to be well prepared to correctly identify hazards. You will not be told how well you did for specific areas after you complete the test, rather you’ll be given advice on what areas of your driving need to be improved in order to help you pass the test.
Preparing ahead of time will make things easier though and save you from stress and disappointment of failing, so here are our five tips for getting yourself into the best position to succeed.
1. Take driving lessons with a driving instructor
Driving instructors are a great source for learning how to identify and respond to potential hazards on the road, and it has been shown that professional driving instructors have a more efficient and longer lasting impact on teaching learner drivers than lessons from parents or friends. Because Professional driving instructors have proven so beneficial to making learner drivers become safer drivers over the years, the Australian Government has actually taken steps to encourage students to get driving lessons through the Keys2drive program and through schemes providing bonus logbook hours for instructed driving lessons.
Driving instructors provide student-focused driving instruction, a style which allows greater development of higher-order skills (such as hazard perception and situational awareness) when compared to parents or friends, who tend to focus on providing instruction relating to the handling of the car or road rules.
Additionally, many driving instructors now teach in dual control cars, and are able to provide learner drivers with a safer and more controlled driving environment, allowing them to focus on their surroundings and develop situational awareness skills.
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2. Learn how to identify a potential or developing hazard
Not all hazards are immediately identifiable, as some hazards are created by other situational factors and can develop gradually over time or unexpectedly.
A visibly intoxicated driver in a car travelling in the same direction as you may not be an immediate hazard, but if they are forced to react to something then you will in turn be required to respond to their unpredictable behaviour. In an instance like this, you should be looking for potential hazards to the vehicle in front of you as well as to your own so you’re prepared if anything happens.
Likewise in wet weather you may be aware of the immediate hazard of reduced traction on the road and the increased stopping distance of your car, but you should also be aware of potential flooding or large puddles. It’s hard to control a car on a wet surface, but it’s impossible to control a car that’s hydroplaning.
3. Learn how to prioritize Hazards
It’s natural instinct to react immediately when we see something we perceive as a threat or otherwise dangerous, but this can mean you react prematurely. Sometimes doing nothing at all is in fact the best reaction, such as when reacting to one hazard could create a new, greater hazard as a result. It will take practice, but as you get more experienced driving on the road with the guidance of a good driving instructor or parent, you will learn how to identify what is an immediate hazard and what is a potential hazard, and how to prioritize them.
If you’re travelling at speed and a wild animal runs out in front of you for example, how you react should be proportionate to the actual level of danger presented by the animal. A small bird or a mouse is not likely to be an immediate threat to your vehicle or safety and will usually move themselves to safety in time, and reacting with a sudden movement can cause you to lose control of your vehicle or put other vehicles in a dangerous position.
Pedestrians and large animals or objects (such as vehicles and structures) that stray into your path however, do require you to respond as soon as reasonably and safely possible to do so.
4. Stay relaxed
Building on from the last point is the need to stay calm and in control. When taking the hazard perception test you should remember to be alert for hazards, but don't be too hasty to jump on the button and react to it. Reacting to a hazard too late is dangerous, but being too reactive to hazards can be equally dangerous.
While it’s always better to err on the side of caution, if you panic and react incorrectly to a hazard while driving, you may find yourself in a position where you are either breaking the law or posing a hazard to yourself. While driving this could be as minor as blocking traffic entering and exiting a premises, or as serious as stopping in front of oncoming traffic, and in the HPT you will be penalized if you react incorrectly to a hazard.
Make sure you study thoroughly in advance, and then on the day of the test let yourself relax beforehand so you go in feeling mentally fresh and alert.
5. Don’t have anything in your system
Aim to have absolutely no trace of intoxicating substances (such as alcohol, drugs, or medication) in your system while you are sitting the hazard perception test. Intoxicating and medicating substances can decrease your reaction time, and may have other side effects that impact your ability to drive safely in real conditions. While you may not actually be in control of a vehicle during this test, you shouldn’t hinder your chances of passing.
Sitting the HPT doesn’t have to be stressful. Ultimately it’s milestone to measure your progress and make sure you’re on the right path to driving safely. As long as you drive safely, thoughtfully, and pay attention to your surroundings and traffic behaviour, you should find sitting the HPT to be a smooth experience.
The skills you need in order to pass it however are vitally important to becoming a safe driver, and you should learn how to become confident and proficient at identifying and responding to all sorts of potential hazards through driving practice in a variety of driving conditions and environments.
If you feel you don’t have the necessary driving experience or if you’re not confident, using a driving instructor is a great way to practice navigating hazards with peace of mind and get valuable feedback.
Book lessons online today in under 60 seconds with EzLicence and get yourself on the right track to driving safely and successfully.