If your New Year’s Resolution this year was to learn to drive, no matter your age, the tips we have collected from the experts at Bill Plant mean you won’t be joining the 80% of people that abandon their resolutions before the middle of the year!
First things first…
Before you can think about starting driving lessons you need to make sure that you have everything needed to legally take them.
You must obtain a provisional driving license before booking anything. These are green photocards that indicate your identity and allow you to learn to drive.
You can apply for one of these licenses any time after the age of 15 years and 9 months, but it will be invalid until you are 16 years old and you won’t be able to learn to drive a car until you turn 17.
The easiest way to apply for one is through the provisional driving licence page on the official GOV UK website. You will need:
- To be able to read a number plate from a minimum of 20 metres away
- Provide a legitimate form of ID (normally a passport, but if you do not have one you can send an original copy of your birth certificate-not a photocopy- and a college or university union card, education certificate or PASS proof of age card)
- Provide addresses for where you have lived over the last three years
- Pay £34 by credit or debit card
- Your National Insurance number
- A passport-style photo
All being well your provisional licence should arrive within a week.
Find the right instructor for you
Now you have the licence in hand the next important tip is to find the right driving instructor. You may feel safe with mum or dad teaching you to drive, but the truth is, this can lead to bad habits and wrong teachings. The best bet to get to that pass is to find a professional driving instructor.
Driving lessons are a big financial investment, particularly if you are covering them yourself as a student, a time in which there is limited disposable income. Selecting a professional instructor could mean the difference between failure and success.
The best way to do this is through reviews and personal recommendations. Every instructor is going to claim to be the best available, but only first-hand experience is going to truly show off their personality and ability as an instructor.
Make sure you ask friends and family about their experiences and decide if you want someone friendly and comforting or someone who is driven and motivating. This preference entirely depends on which learning style you find best. For example, someone with driving anxiety may not want to be pushed too hard and fast and instead would prefer an understanding, softer spoken instructor. Some, however, may actually be motivated by a drill sergeant approach, it is down to the individual.
If you don’t know anyone who has recently taken lessons or passed their test, search online for local driving instructors and check out their reviews (including those on social media) to give you an idea of what they are like.
Commit to lessons
It takes approximately 45 hours of lessons for the average learner to pass their test. Of course, everyone is different, some may need less and some more, the only thing that will consistently ensure a pass is the regularity of lessons.
If you have decided you want to learn to drive you must commit to, not only the idea but also the actions to achieve this goal.
Block booking lessons can often save you money on your lessons and keep the ball rolling. Knowing your next lesson is already booked halts any potential procrastination about booking another, particularly if a previous lesson hasn’t gone too well. Even if you feel too disheartened to carry on, the push of knowing money has already been spent on the next one should encourage you to continue.
Also, you must commit to the booked lessons. It can be tempting to cancel a lesson when you can’t be bothered, but not only does this cause your learning to come to a standstill, it can actually cause you to undo your progress. Never revisiting what you’ve previously learnt will leave you out of practice and having to re-learn what was already done, turning 45 hours into 46, 47, 48… and so on.
Not to mention, cancelling last minute could sour the relationship you have with your instructor!
Another great motivator to stick with lessons, aside from the financial element, is to book your theory test after a few lessons. This will spur you on to learn on and off the road in preparation for the practical test.
Revise, Revise, Revise
If winging it has worked for you in the past then you have been lucky. Winging it isn’t an option when it comes to the green cross code and road safety, as this knowledge could mean the difference between driving well and breaking the law.
If you have been a dodger of revision up until now, this is the time to really knuckle down and revise. Not only does it cost money to take your theory test but without a pass, the chances of passing your practical are nil, as you won’t be allowed to take it.
Luckily there are hundreds of resources to help you revise for and eventually pass your theory test. Some prefer physical revision methods such as flashcards as they avoid the distractions that come with online learning, like a cheeky tab switch to see what that Facebook notification is about.
Take advantage of online practice help, such as a free online hazard perception and a free online theory test if you are more disciplined. These allow you to not only test your knowledge but also practice exam conditions too.
Lastly, relax. Easier said than done we know, particularly if you have your heart set on driving. Putting unnecessary pressure on yourself will not help you pass any quicker, it’ll just cause you to make mistakes and abandon your goal altogether.
Everyone will pass at their own rate, some first time and some after five tries. Although there is an average number of lessons people need, there is no recommended amount to guarantee a pass, everyone is different and learns at their own pace. Relax and stick with it, you will get there eventually and be glad that you stuck with it when you do.
Quickfire tips for test day itself
- Double-check what you need to take
Don’t turn up without your provisional driving licence as you will be turned away and will lose your money!
- Have a lesson beforehand
Having a short lesson beforehand is a good way to iron out any nervous mistakes and get you warmed up behind the steering wheel. Remember to ask your instructor for a refresher on anything you are unsure of.
- Arrive on time
Arriving late could cost you your test slot and money. Turn up on time or up to 10 minutes early to guarantee you’re there when the examiner is.
- Have a good night sleep
Nerves may be in full swing the night before the test, but try and make sure you get a good sleep. Avoid screens before bed and try and get to sleep a little earlier than usual.
- Turn off your phone
No one will be reaching for their phone mid-test, that’s for certain, but the noise alone can be a distraction, potentially causing mistakes or irritating the examiner. Turn it off before you start your test to ensure a distraction-free drive.
- Comfortable clothing
There will be no opportunity to pull over a remove a jacket and it is too late to swap shoes. Make sure the clothing you choose for the day is comfortable, from head to toe. Account for the changing temperature in the car.
- Stay hydrated
This tip requires a balance. On the one hand, you want to make sure you are hydrated for the test as it increases your focus and alertness, however, too many drinks beforehand risks potentially needing the bathroom mid-test, putting you off your driving and possibly cost you your pass.
- Don’t overthink
What happens in the test, happens. You need to simply take your knowledge from your hours of lessons and treat the test like any other drive. Overthinking can be dangerous and cause learners to make silly mistakes. If you feel like you've made a mistake keep trying your best, you may think you've failed for an error you've made but the examiner is the one deciding whether you've passed, not you!
Now get out there and get those licences, good luck!
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