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General Advice to get started
Unless you have the luxury of a lot of open space in an off road area, your first experience of learning to drive will be on the public road with a driving instructor, a friend or a relative.
For many young people, learning to drive and being in charge of a motor vehicle will be the biggest responsibility in their lives so far... But with help from a good driving coach you will soon be taking it all in your stride.
Start by taking a couple of minutes to read the info and watch the videos in this section - you'll find that it is time well spent. Whatever your first experiences are, it's important to build a strong foundation to avoid problems and disappointment later on.
A quick warning...
If anything goes wrong because of your driving, or because your vehicle does not comply with the law, you will be legally liable.
The fact that you are only learning to drive does not mean that you are not responsible - as far as the law is concerned you must obey all the rules and drive safely.
Choosing your driving instructor
Driving instructors come in all colours, genders, shapes and sizes.
The information on this page will help you to choose a driving instructor who is right for you.
You no longer have to have an instructor who wears a cardigan and smokes a pipe - in fact it's illegal for your instructor to smoke in a driving school car!
Modern instructors vary widely, young trendy and sensible through to 'old' caring grandparent type instructors. The youngest UK instructor qualified at 21 years old while the oldest is over 80!
Because you will spend quite a lot of money on a full course of lessons - anything up to and beyond £1000 on lessons - you deserve an instructor who is right for you.
The best way to find any service is to get a recommendation from a friend, this is a good start when learning to drive and looking for driving lessons - but don't take it for granted that someone who suited your friend will also suit you.
The chances are that if someone has been recommended to you they will be great - but be prepared to 'shop around' if you are unsure.
If you are starting from scratch with no recommendation spend your first £50 or even £100 shopping around. 'Try before you buy.'
The quickest, cheapest and best way to drive is to find an instructor who inspires you with confidence and who you get on well with.
Sometimes the fact that an instructor is friendly and helpful can make it difficult to pack him/her up and try another one, some people feel guilty doing this... But remember that you are a paying customer and that if the service doesn't suit you, fine one that does.
Lesson price is only a rough guide to the cost of learning, lots of 'cheap' lessons can work out to be far more costly in the long run than fewer 'expensive' lessons if you don't have an instructor who is right for you.
Also, be aware that some cut price services sometimes cut corners to save fuel and other costs.
Sometimes there might be more talking than driving. Low lesson prices also might mean that an instructor can't afford to take the training needed to keep them up-to-date with modern accelerated learning methods.
A simple test
Here is the simple test to discover whether an instructor is right for you...
If, at the end of a lesson you feel that you haven't totally enjoyed the experience or that you have learned little or nothing, the chances are that the instructor is not right for you.
Everyone has a bad lesson from time-to-time, but these should be rare. If you have two or three 'bad lessons' in succession - seriously consider changing your teacher.
Some people learn to drive with friends and relatives, but as roads get busier it's a good idea for all learners to have some lessons with a professional instructor - but make sure that your instructor is qualified to teach you...
Your instructor must be Approved or Licensed
It is illegal for anyone who is not an Approved or Licensed driving instructor to charge a fee for driving tuition. In addition, the instructor must, by law, display his/her certificate in the windscreen during lessons.
Approved Driving Instructors (ADI's) have passed an examination in order to demonstrate their skills. They are also checked and graded regularly.
Fully qualified instructors display a green badge in the windscreen.
Grading can be A or B - both are acceptable but 'A' is a higher standard.
Some instructors get a C grade, this means that they were unsatisfactory on their last check and are awaiting a re-assessment - these instructors are under review and risk having their tuition licences revoked.
Instructors are issued with a certificate which shows their grade, they should be happy to show this if asked.
Licensed instructors are in the final stages of training and qualification. These instructors have undergone a minimum required training programme and but have not yet passed the final qualifying examination.
Licensed instructors display a pink badge in the windscreen.
While Licensed Instructors are expert drivers and have learned the basic teaching skills, they have less than six months experience in the job. Although Licensed Instructors lack experience, they are invariably enthusiastic and have been trained to the latest standards.
Your instructor's photograph will be displayed on the rear of the pink or green badges (just like on passport photos, they might look like convicts!).
Some instructors will have further qualifications such as special advanced driving certificates, teaching diplomas and even industry related degrees.
Generally speaking, better qualified and and/or very experienced instructors will offer better value (although they might charge a bit more).
Learning with friends and relatives
If you have an opportunity to learn with friends or relatives - go for it!
The more practise you can get the sooner you will gain the confidence needed to pass the test and drive alone, but make sure you follow your instructor's advice when practicing - remember that driving is not just about passing a test, it's about staying safe and staying alive.
The hard facts are that 1.2 million people are killed on the world's roads each year - 33% of them are under 25 years old.
When you practise, stay cool and stay safe!
The person who sits with you when you are driving must be over 21 years old and have held a driving licence for at least three years - this is a legal requirement - both the driver and supervisor are responsible. You supervisor is sublect to the same rules as when driving. He/she must not use a hand-help phone and must be fit in terms of drink and drugs.
To get the best out of your practise ask your instructor what, and where to practise. All practise is good for you, but it's easy to get a false sense of confidence if you only drive on open roads and at higher speeds.
Although you will learn quicker if you get more practice, I do have a word of warning. When practising with friends or relatives, remember that they are the ones with the experience. Listen to their advice and act on it.
If the advice given by the person who sit with you is different from your instructor's, find out why. Get them to talk to your instructor about modern and efficient driving methods and maybe sit in on one of your lessons.
Some instructors run short sessions for supervisors offering advice and tips to help keep your practise productive and stress free; alternatively you might be able to arrange for them to sit in on a driving lesson and ask awkward questions - they might learn something! If your driving instructor thinks that this is a bad idea, find another one with a more professional approach.
Your driving licence and vehicle
Make sure that you have a Provisional Driving Licence, that any car you drive is taxed, tested, displays L plates and is insured for you to drive as a Provisional Licence holder. If these things are not 100% OK you could end up losing your licence before you pass the test!
You must be in physical possession of your licence before you take lessons or start driving - simply applying for your licence is not enough. Be patient! If you drive before your licence arrives in the post you could end up with penalty points before you even start, your driving supervisor could also face charges.
You must also be able to read a car number plate from a distance of 20 metres.
Remember that you are legally responsible. You don't want to get points on your licence before passing your test... Apart from the fines, six points within the first six months of holding a full licence means a re-test.