Learning to drive can be as daunting as it is exciting, but these essential tips from driver training experts will set you, your son or your daughter on the road to test success.
- Learn the Highway Code and understand the practical test
- Find an instructor you get on with and spread out lessons, if possible
- Get out on the road between lessons with qualified family or friends
1. How much will it cost to pass my driving test?A provisional licence is currently £34 online or £43 through the post. According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) driving lessons, on average, cost £24 per hour in the UK although this does depend on where you live and can rise to £30. It also says the average number of hours required to pass is 47. As well as this, the theory test costs £23 and the practical car test costs up to £75.
2. Understand the driving test and learn the theoryThe test is split into two parts – a theory test and a practical test – so it’s important to learn what to expect in each. The theory test involves both written and hazard perception (video) sections.
"Take lots of mock tests and make sure you’re constantly passing them before you even consider applying to take a test," says Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driving School.
3. Taking an intensive courseYou may be tempted to go for an intensive course which often takes place over five days. While the DVSA has no statistics on pass rates for intensive course learners, Tim Shallcross, of the Institute for Advanced Motorists, believes that taking traditional lessons is the best approach as it gives learner drivers more time to prepare.
"There’s lots of research that says the more practice you get before your test, the less likely you are to crash afterwards," says Shallcross.
4. Finding the best driving instructorThere isn’t a one-size-fits-all instructor out there, each has their own style and methods and some may be more suited to you than others.
Shallcross recommends booking a lesson with two or three different instructors or schools before settling on you preferred teacher. It's also worth turning to friends and siblings to see if their driving teacher could help.
5. Practicing with the parentsGetting out on the road between lessons with family or friends is crucial to improving your chances of passing the test, says Shallcross.
The government website suggests you practice for around 22 hours on top of your driving lessons.
A lot has changed since the last generation took their tests. The Highway Code didn't include what to do if you encounter a crash, for example, and practical tests now focus on 'independent driving', where students are asked to follow signs to a specific location.
"Ask your instructor if mum or dad can travel in the back of the car during lessons," Shallcross adds. "That way, they know what to concentrate on when they help you."
6. The importance of insuranceYes, you need car insurance before heading out on the road - even though you are a learner driver. Generally, you’ll be covered by your driving school while taking lessons and the practical test, but if you practise between professional lessons in a car belonging to family or friends, you'll need extra cover.
7. Is it best to practise in car parks or on private land?Your driving test will be on the road, so it's important to spend as much time driving on the road as possible, advises Shallcross.
"Only spend your very first lesson in a quiet car park," he recommends.
8. Practice in your parents' carIf you're taking your test in a Vauxhall Corsa with manual gears, practicing in your parents' automatic BMW isn’t ideal, but it's not the end of the world.
"Practice between lessons is mostly about learning what to expect on the road, not gear-changing technique," says Shallcross.
9. What else can I do to prepare?
Get all your documents together and lay out your clothes for test day the night before so that you can concentrate on the test itself, says McIntosh.
"And don’t tell your friends - it just adds to the pressure," he says.
There's no secret to learning to drive, according to the experts, but if one word sums up their advice, it’s ‘preparation’ - make sure you give yourself plenty of time to feel prepared and plenty of experience on the road before taking your test.
If you don’t pass first time, don’t be disheartened: you can always take the test again and the instructor will take you through what went wrong the first time so you can avoid making the same mistakes.
But when you are ready to get on the road with your 'P' plates, make sure you've got your car insurance sorted.
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