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Starting Your Driving Lessons
Countdown to Driving
If you are sixteen years old you can start preparing for your driving lessons. Here's a countdown of what you can do to get on the road as soon as you can.
3 months to go - Apply for your Provisional Licence
It's approaching your 17th birthday! You can apply for your provisional licence 3 months before your birthday. Apply online at Direct Gov. If you have a valid UK passport and are happy to use the same photo the process is quite simple. But if you don't want to use the photo of yourself when you were 13 then you will be sent another form to complete, and will need to send a passport size photo which has been signed on the back by a witness. If you make a mistake your form will be sent back to you, so it's best to apply well in advance to make sure that you can drive on your birthday - especially if someone is buying lessons for you!
2 months to go - Choose a Driving Instructor
If you want to make sure that you have a lesson on your 17th birthday it is always best to give notice of at least six weeks.
If you have been on a pre 17 Young Drivers' Scheme then you may already be driving with an instructor you like. However, if you haven't, or if you don't get on with your current instructor (and there's nothing wrong with that, we all have different teaching and learning styles), you'll have to find someone to learn with.
Driving lessons vary in price quite considerably - from £17 per hour to £25 per hour. But the cheapest isn't always the best. Some driving instructors squeeze in extra pupils so can afford to be cheaper, but this may mean you're not getting the full hour for the money. Some instructors are cheaper as they are not fully qualified by the DSA (driving Standards Agency). A fully qualified instructor will have a green badge like the one above on the windscreen. A pink badge shows the instructor is not fully qualified. They may be as good, but will not have had the same experience. 9 out of 10 drivers who pass the practical test on their first attempt are taught by a fully qualified ADI (Approved Driving Instructor).
It is illegal to take money for driving lessons if the instructor is not qualified.
Check the pass rates for the school or instructor you are considering - you do sometimes pay for quality teaching. A good driving instructor will not encourage you to take the practical test until you have a good chance of passing it - it's going to cost you a lot of money and delays if you have to retake. So if there is a good driving school with a good reputation and high pass rate, it might be worth spending a little extra money on lessons.
You will often find you get a discount to book 10 or more hours of lessons at once. Some schools have schemes where people can buy gift vouchers for you. This is a great idea to ask for as presents for your birthday!
If you can afford it, try to book 2 hours lessons. Although this is more expensive, one two hour lesson per week will teach you more than two separate one hours.
Driving schools usually advertise which type of cars they use for teaching. If you have a particular size or type of car in mind for when you pass your test this could also be one of the factors you take into account. Most learners learn in a car with a manual gearbox. You can learn in an automatic, but if you take your test in a car with an automatic gearbox you will not be able to drive a car that has manual gears.
1 month to go - Start reading your Theory!
It's never too early to start reading up on the theory that you will need to pass your test. The Highway Code gives you lots of hints and tips about driving. Knowing what the road signs mean and the road markings will help you to drive on the road without being a nuisance to other drivers. The earlier you take your theory test the more it will help you drive. You can take your theory test from your 17th birthday.
Nervous about other cars?
When you are driving remember that everyone else on the road started out just like you - they had L plates, were slow to pull away from junctions and could hold up traffic at traffic lights. Make sure you concentrate on what you are doing, and do not get worried about other drivers. Your instructor should talk to you and make you feel more confident. And remember, you will have good days and bad days - but suddenly it will all come together and you'll be over the hump!
Having lessons with a qualified instructor in a dual controlled car is a great confidence giver. If you do get into trouble the instructor is on hand to make sure you get out of it safely.
Your first lessons
If you have had pre 17 driving lessons your instructor will pick up where those left off. If this is your first time behind the wheel of a car expect to spend some time getting used to the controls, and how to adjust your seat and mirrors so that you can sit comfortably and have a good view all around you.
As you begin to develop your driving skills your instructor will suggest when you ought to book your theory test if you haven't already done so. You will need to have passed your theory before you book a practical test.
Make sure you book your next lesson!
If, after your first couple of lessons you find you don't get on with your instructor, don't feel afraid to change. Different people have different learning styles, and instructors will have different characters too.
How many lessons will I need?
Research conducted by the Driving Standards Agency shows that the average person will need at least 47 hours of lessons and 22 hours of private practice before they pass their test. Remember - this is an average. Many people do it with a lot fewer lessons, and some take more.
What is definite though is that being able to practice between your lessons will really help you!
Don't be in too much of a rush to book your practical test. Make sure you wait until your instructor tells you that you are ready. All learner drivers pass through a phase when they feel they can handle a car very well - which is probably true. However, they still need more experience to handle the hazards that come up during everyday driving, and which may catch them out on the test.
Booking your test
Don't forget you cannot book your Practical Driving Test until after you have passed your Theory Test.
Stop! Don't think about booking your test until your instructor tells you.
Get Ready: Once booked, be prepared to reschedule if things don't go to plan, and you've missed some lessons for example. You can cancel or change your driving test as long as you give 3 days clear notice.
Go! If your instructor confirms your ready - take your test!
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