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Practice Driving for Learners
Why Practice Driving?
The Driving Standards Agency recommends that in addition to your lessons with your instructor you also have private practice.
But how can you practice when you don't have a car?
It's easy - as long as you have a parent, relative or friend who has a car and is prepared to help you to learn to drive. To accompany a learner driver you must be:
Over the age of 21
Have held (and still hold) a full driving licence for three years
Please see our Practice Tips for accompanying drivers.
But isn't the insurance really expensive?
It would be if you were added to someone else's insurance, but you can get your own insurance on a specific car for around £90 a month - sometimes the price even comes down a little if you purchase 2 or 3 months at once.
Provisional Marmalade, for example, insure cars up the Insurance Group 42 and up to a value of £20,000 for the same flat fee. Other insurers also offer similar policies, but they are all much of a muchness in price.
The insurance is for you driving that car. It doesn't matter who accompanies you, as long as they are over 21 and have held a licence for three years.
What's the benefit of practicing?
The average new driver needs an average of 20 hours practice in order to pass their test. If you drive your parent's car, for example, you can drive wherever they are going - to the supermarket (excellent for practicing bay parking) or you drive instead of them when they would normally drive you to work or to visit friends. The more driving practice you get the more confident you will be on the road, and driving around means you'll get lots of experience at spotting those hazards. You'll probably need a lot more lessons if you don't practice in another car, which will cost a lot more money!
When can I practice driving?
To start with make sure you have L Plates fitted to the car - you can buy magnetic L plates, but they might not stick on all services. L Plates must be used whilst the learner is driving, but should be covered, or removed, when they are not.
You can buy a cheap interior mirror that sticks by suction - this lets your accompanying driver see what is behind you, and so can help you out.
If you are going to take your practical test in your parents' or relative's car you must have this mirror fitted.
You can start practicing driving when your instructor tells you you are ready. Please don't try before.
Your instructor's car will have dual controls - if you get into trouble your instructor can help you out. Your parent's or friend's car will not have dual controls, so using the brake, clutch and accelerator is all down to you - all your poor Mum will have will be the handbrake!
For this reason your instructor will probably tell you to drive slower when you practice at first than you do with him/her.
Is there anything special I should do when I practice?
Remember, the first time someone lets you drive their car will be pretty scary for them! If you want them to keep taking you out driving you must help make it a pleasant experience for you both. If your Dad comes back a bag of nerves he is hardly likely to take you out again. So make sure that you listen carefully to what they are telling you, and if they say 'slow down' or 'stop' then make sure you do so. That way your accompanying driver will feel they have some control - which is espeically important if it is their car, and their pride and joy!
The person with you should help you not to panic if you stall at a roundabout, or if you think you are driving too slowly (and at times you may feel you're the only one obeying speed limits). However much you think you are frustrating other drivers remember they were all learners too one.
Concentrate on your driving, and don't worry about other drivers around you.
What sort of practicing should I do?
Your instructor will tell you what you need to practice. It's a good idea if the person who's accompanying you talks to your instructor after your lesson to find out what you need to do. Most instructors are more than happy to allow your parent or friend to sit in the back of the car whilst you are having a lesson. That way they can find out how you are being taught.
A drivers' practice record is available for download from Direct Gov. An example is shown below.
See if you can drive on all the errands - trips to the supermarket are ideal to practice bay parking! Even going on longer drives on days out is good practice as it allows you to drive on different types of roads and in different situations. As you improve, and your parent/friend gets more confident with your driving, go for practice drives at night, or in the rain, so you become familiar with driving in different conditions.
You may be taking lessons in your instructor's car, but will be going to take your test in your practice car. Make sure you practice reversing round a corner, turning in the road, bay parking and parallel parking in the car in which you will take your test. Different cars have different turning circles, so you may need to make slight adjustments to your method for doing the different manoeuvres. If you are having difficulty reversing in your practice car ask your instructor for advice - s/he will be able to give you some things to try.
Remember! Practice is not just to help you pass your test, it's to help you drive safely! The more situations you have to deal with with an experienced driver beside you to advise, the more you're be able to cope with when you are on your own.
Note to Parents! Although daunting to take your 17 year old out in your car, if you see how s/he can drive you'll have more peace of mind when they take to the roads alone.
See also our Practice Driving Tips