Learning to Drive: Getting Started
Steady on cowboy… you can’t just hop in a car the minute you turn 17. There are lots of things to remember, so make sure you’ve got everything covered before you learn to drive with this list.
Most people are eager to turn 17 for one reason… you can learn to drive! It’s a rite of passage that marks the start of your independence, as you no longer have to rely on others for a lift. And to help you on your way, we’ve gathered all the info you need before you start learning to drive.
1. Applying for your provisional licence
The first step on your driving journey is getting your provisional licence. Although you can apply when you’re 15 years and 9 months old (a bit of future pub quiz trivia there), for most people you can’t start driving a car until you’re 17.
You’ll also need to provide a colour passport-style photograph. This photo will stick with you for at least the next decade, so you should probably accept straight away that it’s going to be awful…no smiling and no filters!
2. Get an eye test!
In order to apply for a provisional licence and sit your driving test, you must meet the standards of vision for driving. You should be able to read a car number plate from 20 metres, or around the length of a cricket pitch. If you require glasses or contacts, be sure to wear them every time you’re behind the wheel.
3. Find a driving instructor
Finding the right instructor for you is crucial. They’ll teach you how to drive safely and prevent you from picking up bad habits. They have a lot of experience and knowledge to impart, and help you become a great driver.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has an online tool where you can find approved driving instructors (ADIs), although not all ADIs will be listed.
It’s also important that you find an instructor you get along with and feel comfortable with. After all, according to the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) learners have 45 hours of professional lessons on average – so you’ll be spending a lot of time with them!
Ask friends and family who have recently learned to drive for their recommendations. Remember, a good instructor will be punctual, reliable and friendly… plus it’s a good idea to pick one with a car that suits your needs, eg manual or automatic.
4. Theory test resources
Before you can sit your practical driving test, you’ll need to pass your theory test. The test is split into two sections: multiple choice and hazard perception. The test is based on three books:
You’ll also need to remember to book the test itself, as there can be a long waiting list. You can book your test online here, and you’ll need your driving licence number, email address, and credit or debit card to hand to pay the £23 fee.
5. Can you practice driving with family or friends?
Lots of learner drivers find it helpful to have additional practice on the roads. It’s common for learners to get some hours in with family or friends once they’ve had a few lessons with an instructor. It doesn’t replace professional lessons, but is a great way to gain more road experience and build confidence.
As a provisional licence holder, you must be supervised whenever you’re behind the wheel. Otherwise you could be faced with a fine of up to £1,000 and up to 6 penalty points on your licence, which is catastrophic for learner or new drivers. Not least because it can have knock-on effects for the cost of insurance, or even getting insurance at all.
On that point, you’ll also need to make sure you have the correct insurance. If you’re learning in someone else’s car, it’s super quick and easy to buy Learner Driver Insurance. You can get a quote in less than two minutes, and buy instant cover from two hours to 90 days, so there’s no reason to not be insured.
6. Book your driving test
Test centre appointments book up fast, so make sure you book yours as soon as you feel ready – as there could be a waiting time of several weeks or even months.
Find out what’s actually in the driving test here.