Am I covered?
First things first
Having decided to learn to drive some immediate questions hit you. Some you’ll have thought of, others you may not. The following aims to provide a detailed guide to all the areas you need to consider while making this important step towards your travel freedom.
Let’s start with the car(s). Which one are you going to use to learn in? Who’s going to teach you? What learner driver insurance do you need? We’ll first address the question about insurance here and the other questions in the sections that follow.
There’s one thing you have to carefully consider: learning to drive comes with a large price tag, and one of the most expensive elements of that, after lessons and possible car purchase, will be the cost of learner drivers insurance. That’s because young drivers are more likely to have an accident. Sadly, there’s no escaping it, and it’s required by law to protect both yourself and others before you hit the road. There are lots of factors that you can’t control that will affect your insurance, such as your age and where you live, but there are still steps you can take to manage your insurance premium.
The insurance you need as a learner driver will depend on whose car you’re going to learn in:
|Insurance required||Insurance not required|
|Your own car||Driving Instructor|
|Family car, as a named driver|
|Family / Friends car, your own policy|
Learning through an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) is an investment, but will ensure you don’t pick up the driving habits of others and any misconceptions they may hold of current driving codes, laws and practices. It also helps avoid fallouts with anyone who might be close to you. The cost of using an ADI may limit the number of lessons you take but, with insurance covered under the terms of your instructor’s policy, you don’t need to make any insurance arrangements of your own whilst learning – unless you choose to mix ADI lessons with some from friends and relatives to contain costs.
Finding an ADI, and one that’s right for you, is easy. Start with recommendations. Learning with someone others you know have recently used and feel comfortable sat alongside might provide some useful reassurance and make the whole learning process more enjoyable. But remember, we’re all different and sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there. Start with asking classmates, sixth formers, friends, relatives and neighbours.
If you’re still stuck, jump online and find your nearest DVSA approved driving instructor by putting your postcode into www.gov.uk/find-driving-schools-and-lessons. Be careful about choosing part qualified instructors (PDI’s) rather than a fully qualified and regulated one (ADI). They might be cheaper but there’s probably a reason why, such as having to have an ADI accompany them whilst teaching. Two might be company but three could be a crowd! In terms of the car you learn in, it’s always best to learn to drive in a manual rather than an automatic car, if you can, as this will enable you to drive (and buy) both manuals and automatics in future rather than limit you to automatics only, unless you re-take your test! Also, don’t rush the learning process. Even though intensive courses are available for those who just have to get through it and get out there, there’s no substitute for experience and they do come at a price.
Continuity of car is a nice thing to have as you learn to drive and then build confidence as a newly qualified young driver. Familiarity with the car, its controls, handling and performance are less confusing and distracting than multiple changes of vehicle. This way of learning enables you to have telematics-based insurance and its technology fitted from the outset and the opportunity to use it throughout the learning process and beyond into your formative years as a new driver.
Telematics systems are popular with learners, their parents and insurers because:
- They’re quick and simple to install and can transfer to a new car should you fancy a change
- They now come with apps that tell you and your provider how you’re progressing
- They enable providers to use the information they receive about your driving to reward you with reduced premiums; you’re in control of your insurance costs and you won’t bear the costs of those who don’t drive responsibly
- If you choose iKube, it comes with RAC Advance capabilities that will let you and them know if there’s a problem with your car and you need to take appropriate action. What’s more, if you do break down they automatically know where you are and will already be gathering data to help establish what the problem is.
If you can show you can drive safe and arrive safe, you’re more likely to avoid the things that inevitably result in expensive insurance costs – accidents – and then you’re a winner.
If you feel telematics-based insurance is not for you, however, you need to take the recommendations of others and begin the sometimes painful process of shopping around on comparison sites and negotiating with those providers you think can help you get the right policy at the right price for you.
Take into account the following:
- Third Party Fire & Theft vs Fully Comprehensive:
Fully Comprehensive is not always more expensive than third party, fire & theft
- Excesses and Excess insurance
Taking on higher excesses can reduce premiums but you’ll pay for it if you need to claim
- Choice of car
Powerful, modified, and expensive cars will attract higher premiums whoever you approach
Insurers don’t like modifications either so standard specifications are better. Overly flash wheels, spoilers, lighting and window tinting won’t help you keep your premium down
- If the car is fitted with a security device and is garaged / parked off road, these are big pluses.
This can provide the platform for lots of lessons on a relatively cheap basis because you can get temporary cover under your own name or as a named driver on a parent’s or friend’s policy. But it can have issues such as:
- Changing vehicles midstream
- Picking up bad habits from others
- The impact an accident might have on another’s policy
- You’re also subject to other peoples’ availability
Short term temporary cover can be found on a comprehensive basis and can, if necessary, be extended until you pass your test. Once you’ve passed your test however, you’ll need to arrange a normal insurance policy. If you’re going down this route you’d be wise to get a policy in your own name rather than go on their policy as a named driver, as any accident will lose them their no claims bonus unless they take out a separate policy to protect it.
For those less concerned with quality than immediate short term cost savings it can work and if it works great. If it gets you through your test first time even better. You can always swap to a telematics based insurance once you’ve passed your test and want to get your own set of wheels.
Remember, anyone supervising your learning, whether in your own car or theirs must be 21 and have held a full licence for at least three years. They must, like you, be under the alcohol limit, and they must not use a handheld device whilst supervising and that applies to you whilst driving.
Learning via an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI)
Learning through ADI’s is an investment but will ensure you don’t pick up the driving habits of others and any misconceptions they may hold of current driving codes, laws and practices. It also helps avoid fallouts out with anyone who might be close to you. The cost of using an ADI may however limit the number of lessons you take but, with insurance covered under the terms of your instructor’s policy, you don’t need to make any insurance arrangements of your own whilst learning – unless you choose to mix ADI lessons with some from friends and relatives to contain costs.
Finding an ADI, and one that’s right for you, is easy. Start with recommendations. Learning with someone others you know have recently used and feel comfortable sat alongside might provide some useful reassurance and make the whole learning process more enjoyable. But remember, we’re all different and it doesn’t always follow. Start with asking classmates, sixth formers, friends, relatives and neighbours.
They’re usually a good starting point. Beyond that jump online and find your nearest DVSA approved driving instructor by putting your postcode into www.gov.uk/find-driving-schools-and-lessons. Be careful about choosing part qualified instructors (PDI’s) rather than a fully qualified and regulated one (ADI). They might be cheaper but there’s probably a reason, such as having to have an ADI accompany them whilst teaching. Two might be company but three could be a crowd!
In terms of the car you learn in, its always best to learn to drive in a manual rather than an automatic car, if you can, as this will enable you to drive (and buy) both manuals and automatics in future rather than limit you to automatics only, unless you re-take your test! Also don’t rush the learning process. Even though intensive courses are available for those who just have to get through it and get out there, there’s no substitute for experience and they do come at a price.
Freedom starts here!
For many people, their 17th birthday is liberation day. For some it’s their 16th.
If you’re not yet 17 years of age, the only way you can learn to drive is on private land – your own if you’re lucky – failing that, land used by one of the many young driver schools opening for those under 17 years of age.
If you’re entitled to the enhanced rate of the mobility component of the Personal Independence Payment PIP, due to being disabled or suffering from long term ill-health, you can start your driving lessons from your 16th birthday.
You can apply for a provisional driving licence up to three months in advance of your birthday, but irrespective of when your provisional arrives, you can’t get behind the wheel of a car on the public highway until your actual birthday. Similarly, if your licence fails to arrive before your birthday you can‘t go on the public highway without it. To apply for your provisional licence, just go online to the official website www.gov.uk/apply-first-provisional-driving-licence (avoiding, if you can, those that want you to charge you for the privilege of doing it for you), or fill in a form D1 at your post Office. Once done it’s valid until you’re 70 years old but then needs renewing every 10 years should you still need it.
Practise, practise, practise!
So you’ve sorted your provisional licence, whatever insurance you might need to cover you as a learner driver, and who’s going to teach you. Now it’s all about practise, practise, practise. Not everyone finds jumping behind the wheel of a car for the first time particularly easy, and it’s not until you are at the controls that you realise just how much there is to it. There are a number of things you can do to make things easier for yourself:
- Be prepared, be alert
- Try getting an early night
- Eat before each lesson
- Listen to instructions and take it all in
- Do it at a pace that you are comfortable with
- Do it in familiar territory initially and stay off the motorways
- Taking fewer but longer lessons can help
- Remember, not everyone’s a natural, it takes time and patience
- Remain positive and don’t panic
- If you don’t understand, ask
- If you don’t think that things are working between you and your instructor, tell them!
Applying for your theory test
The Theory Test
Applying for your practical test
Tips to pass your Practical test
What if I fail?
Ready to get the brain in gear?
When you applied for your provisional licence you’ll have been sent a copy of the current Highway Code. If not you can pick up a copy of the Highway Code from the Safe Driving for Life website, or from most high street and online bookstores. Knowing this intimately is your first challenge in gaining freedom on the open road. You need to have passed this before you can then go onto your practical driving test, and you can’t go solo on the highways until you’ve passed both theory and practical tests.
Your theory test is every bit as challenging as your practical: almost half of all candidates fail it on their first take. So prepare thoroughly, check out the multitude of online apps offering help and assistance, such as The Official DSA Theory Test Kit; Webrich Software’s interactive UK Car Driving Theory Test; and a whole catalogue of revisions questions from Driving Test Success; and loads more apps at www.theorytestapp.co.uk
Once you’ve exhausted all the support materials, crammed it all in, asked your teacher or instructor to show how it all relates during your driving lessons, you’re about ready to select your local test centre at www.gov.uk/book-theory-test. Book in for what is a multiple-choice test and definitely not a multiple-guess test. Common sense alone won’t get you through this as the failure rate demonstrates!
Your Theory Test, whilst being multiple-choice, will nevertheless test your knowledge, your powers of observation, and anticipation, hazard perception, situational analysis, road signs recognition and stopping distances. In fact, it can draw on anything and everything contained within the following three must read publications to form a set of just 50 questions:
- The Highway Code: Note that Northern Ireland has a separate version, but the one for England, Wales and Scotland is packed with 307 rules covering different road users, driving techniques and sections on signals, signs and road and vehicle markings.
- Knowing your Traffic Signs: This includes guidance on the signage system, regulatory signs, speed limit signs and all other signs.
- Driving – the essential skills: or to give it its full title, The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – The Essential Skills. It’s the industry-standard driving manual focused on you, the driver, and it explains how to get the most enjoyment from your driving with the correct attitude, behaviour and skills. It’s written by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, the people who set the driving tests.
- You must take your UK photocard driving licence to your test
- If a Northern Ireland licence holder, bring the photocard and paper counterpart licence
- If you’ve lost your licence you need to apply for a replacement driving licence (15 days)
- Rearrange your test if you don’t get the new licence in enough time
- If you have a paper licence bring a valid passport as well as your paper licence
- If you don’t have a passport, you need to get a photocard licence
- Forget or take the wrong things and your test will be cancelled and not refunded
- Personal belongings can’t be taken into the test room with you but must be stored
- The test centre staff will check if you have anything with you that could be used to cheat
- Your test won’t go ahead if you don’t let them check
- It’s illegal to cheat at the theory test. You can be sent to prison and banned from driving
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for.
Your theory test in the bag, your head busting with theory, you can now focus on your next challenge, your practical driving test. Intuitively you’ll know when you’re ready for your test and your driving instructor or teacher will confirm this. Now it’s about demonstrating that you can safely and competently apply all that you’ve learnt for your theory test, and during all your driving lessons, to a driving test examiner. You’ll meet them for the first time at your test centre on the day of your examination.
Booking your test
- Book your Practical Driving Test via www.gov.uk/book-driving-test to avoid admin fees
- Don’t expect to get a next day appointment. Waiting lists are routine at peak times
- If time is tight ask for a cancellation or take your test at another driving test centre
- If the latter, see if you can gain some familiarity before your test date
- Your test will last for approximately one hour and will be made up of a number of elements
Taking your test
- Insurance and vision checks
- Car knowledge and suitability checks
- Practical driving (approximately 40 mins with 10 mins on your own)
- Post test result and feedback.
At the end of your test you’ll know whether you’re one of the 47% of successful applicants who can immediately start driving on the public roads, even though you won’t at this stage have a full UK driving licence. That’s a pleasure still to come. If you’re unsuccessful, you’ll have to wait another 10 working days before you can re-sit your test.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
After all your lessons and revision give yourself the best chance of success by being prepared for the big day itself. This includes getting some decent sleep the night before, having something to eat beforehand, dressing appropriately, and arriving on time. And if you feel having someone accompany you whilst taking your test will help, such as a parent or friend, make those arrangements well in advance of your test.
Your test can be terminated at any stage even before you get in your car if:
|■||You don’t arrive on time for your test||Be early!|
|■||You can’t prove that your car is suitably insured||Take it!|
|■||You can’t prove that you’ve passed your theory test||Take it!|
|■||You can’t provide your provisional driving licence||Take it!|
|■||Your vision is impaired||Check it!|
|■||Your car’s condition and safety is inappropriate for the examination||Check it!|
|■||Your car doesn’t display L-plates||Check it!|
Be familiar with your car:
- Its controls and instrumentation – location, use
- Its parts – access and adjustment
- Performing basic checks – checking tyre pressure / oil levels / wipers and washers
- Know how to open the bonnet and boot
- Know how to change a tyre
Once in the car
- Listen carefully to your examiner
- Ask if anything is unclear
- Stay calm and positive
The world hasn’t ended! Chin up!
With pass rates at 47%, failure is faced by 53% of those who take their test despite being considered ready for it. Console yourself with the fact that you gave it your best shot so don’t beat yourself up and, if you didn’t tell your friends in the first place, who’s to know anyway?
The best thing you can do is to learn from your mistakes, take the comments from your examiner and the reasons for failure on board, get back into practice mode and practise, practise, practise! Don’t leave it and lose the momentum. Do it straight away. Keep going. And once you’ve rebuilt your confidence and sharpened your skills or plugged the gaps in your knowledge, re-apply for your test safe in the knowledge that those who pass after their second attempt are generally considered the safest drivers.
Remember though, if you’re booking a re-test you’ll need to choose a date at least 10 days after your last test.
Make sure you focus on the following in addition to any others mentioned by your last examiner, as these are often the top reasons for failure:
- Observation and judgement at junctions
- Steering control
- Turning at junctions, particularly right hand turns
- Response to traffic signals (traffic lights)
- Control at move-off
- Vehicle positioning
- Observation when moving away
- Reverse parking
- Response to signals and road markings