Learning to drive

Mike Shaw
Written by: Mike Shaw
Posted on: 1 September 2015

Learning to drive can be a complicated and daunting business. Insuring a car and paying for lessons can be very expensive but persuading a qualified driver to come out in the car with you while you practice can be difficult too. And then when you think you’re ready, you have to take both written and practical tests.

Before you start

You can apply for a provisional driving licence when you’re 17 years old. This allows you to drive on public roads as long as a qualified driver accompanies you – this means someone who is at least 21 years old and has held a European Commission (EC) licence for a minimum of three years. You’ll need to fill in Form D1, which you can get from the DVLA form ordering service or from a Post Office (a fee will be applicable).

You’re not allowed to start driving until you’ve actually received your provisional licence; merely applying for it is not good enough. So if you can’t wait to get started, remember that you can apply for a provisional licence up to two months before your actual birthday.

Eyes right

It’s a sensible idea to have an eye test before you start driving. It’s possible that even if your eyesight is perfectly good enough for schoolwork, reading or working at a computer, you may need glasses to aid your vision on the roads.

Getting started

You need to make sure that you’re insured to drive. If you’re having driving lessons, your instructor will have the necessary insurance cover on their car. Lessons with a recognised driving instructor are highly recommended as they’re trained to be teachers and their cars are usually fitted with dual controls so they can take over in an emergency.

If you’re a young driver, you can often be insured on your parents' vehicle if they add you as a named driver. This also means you might be able to build up your own no claim discount.

Mother teaching daughter to drive

Mother teaching daughter to drive

Testing times

When it comes to taking your driving test, you’ll find there are two parts to it: theory and practical. You have to pass the theory before you can take the practical.

There are two parts to the theory test:

  • a multiple choice section
  • a hazard perception section

The test isn’t designed to trick you and is there to assess whether you have sufficient knowledge of things like road signs, stopping distances and general road-awareness.

The Driving Standards Agency (DVSA) theory test website, lets you practice the test twice for free, and for a small fee you can have unlimited practice attempts. You can also purchase official learning materials through the site.

"Even as a learner, you need to make sure that you’re insured to drive"

You’ll receive your results before you leave the test centre and if you’ve passed you can then discuss with your driving instructor when they think you might be ready to take your practical test. A theory test pass is valid for two years; if you haven’t passed your practical test within that time, you’ll have to retake the theory test. Waiting lists can be long, so make sure you leave plenty of time to apply.

When you go to a test centre to take your practical test, don’t forget to take your provisional licence with you, along with your theory pass certificate and a form of photo ID. The practical test will also last around 40 minutes.

New drivers

Congratulations on passing your driving test! Although you're now a qualified driver, remember that you aren't an experienced driver yet and nearly one in four of all young new drivers are involved in an accident within their first two years of driving1.

So drive carefully, drive considerately and you can make the most of the freedom that being able to drive will bring you.

When you’re learning to drive, you aren’t allowed on a motorway, so now you’ve passed why not consider a motorway driving lesson?

It will cover how and when to overtake, joining and leaving slip roads and how to deal with roadworks.

It’s also worth considering taking part in the Pass Plus training scheme where you’ll gain valuable driving experience safely and build on your existing skills and knowledge. Plus you could save money on car insurance.

1. Young drivers at risk, The AA, 2012

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