Learning to drive can be one of the most nerve racking, yet rewarding experiences you’ll undertake. Imagine a world where you don’t have to stand waiting for a bus or grapple with train delays. Being able to drive can offer freedom and independence, but there’s a bit of work to be done, before you pass your driving test and become a certified driver.
One of the first criteria you’ll have to comply with is your age, and it’s a legal requirement in the UK, that you are 17 or over before you start to drive. Before you book any lessons you’ll also have to apply for/hold a valid provisional driving licence, which covers you while you’re learning. You can pick up a D1 form from many post offices, which needs to be returned to the DVLA.
Once you have your provisional licence you can then start thinking about booking some driving lessons. Choosing the right driving instructor can help you feel more comfortable and confident, and has proven benefits in helping you learn. Options include self-employed independent driving instructors, local driving schools, or a national chain such as BSM or The AA. You can also choose from male and female instructors, manual or automatic cars, and if you are a nervous driver, you may also be able to find instructors who are experienced in dealing with a nervous learner.
Driving schools may vary somewhat in how they operate, but many offer initial driving lessons, where you may perform a couple of very basic steps such as moving off, or a gear change, and you’ll also learn some theory, and get to know your instructor. From this lesson, a personal plan will be devised, and you’ll work out how many lessons you’ll have each week. Look out for special offers that may apply if booking online or over the phone. Discounts may apply to an initial block of lessons or bulk booking too.
In 2007 the average number of lessons before a driving test was passed, totalled 45 hours, plus around 22 hours of private practice. Learning to drive is by no means an exact science though, so it’s important that you learn at your own pace. Your instructor can advise on when you’ll be ready to take your practical test, and will normally have a log book and/or mock tests to chart your progress.
Along with lesson plans and mock tests, your instructor or driving school, may offer extras such as help preparing for the theory test, books, CD-ROMs, and other resource material, I-Phone learning applications, and a range of fast pass intensive courses.
When you’re ready you can normally book your theory test direct through the Driving Standards Authority, or through your driving school, although booking fees may apply to the latter. You’ll have to pass your theory test first, and then you’ll have two years to pass your practical test. Once you’ve passed (and celebrated), you could take a pass plus course to help build up your confidence. Whichever way you decide to learn, if you need some extra help, check out the books featured on the rest of this site.