Things you should know before you start learning to drive
Make sure you’re prepared for your first driving lesson…here’s what you need to know.
About to start learning to drive? Here’s the learning to drive checklist every learner needs. Plus tips on how to prepare and what to expect on your first driving lesson.
When can you start learning to drive?
You can drive on a public road in the UK with a provisional license once you’re 17 years old. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, which you can find out all about here.
It’s all very exciting. But before you run to the phone to book your first driving lesson, there are some things you’ll need to sort out…
Learning to drive checklist
1. Get your provisional license
While this may sound like an oddly specific age, it’s for a good reason. You can learn to drive a moped with a provisional license at 16, so it allows a few months for the license to arrive. But, if you just want to learn to drive a car, don’t worry about applying until a few months before your 17th birthday.
When applying for a provisional license you’ll need:
- To meet the minimum eyesight requirements. This means you’ve got to be able to read a car number plate made after September 2001 from a distance of 20 metres. For you sports fans, that’s about the length of a cricket pitch.
- Proof of ID, this will be your passport number if you’re a UK citizen.
- Addresses that you’ve lived in over the last 3 years.
- £34 to pay the online fee, this can be done with a debit or credit card.
Check out this article for the full scoop on provisional licenses.
2. Get some L plates
Those all important red and white L plates. You’ll need an L plate on both the front and back of your car so that it’s easy to see. You can get up to 6 points on your license for driving without L plates, so it’s not something you want to forget.
Magnetic L plates tend to be the most popular. They’re easy to stick on and off, which is handy if you’re driving someone else’s car.
In Wales you’re also allowed to use a D plate instead of an L plate. D stands for ‘dysgwr’ meaning ‘learner’ in Welsh. Yes, we promise ‘dysgwr’ is actually a word, just don’t ask us how to pronounce it.
3. Do I need insurance as a learner driver?
If you’re driving with a qualified driving instructor, the fee you pay them will cover the cost of your insurance. But if you want to drive outside of your lessons, you’ll need to sort out some insurance.
With our learner driver insurance you can drive in a friend or family member’s car from 2 hours up to 180 days. There’s no need to worry about the car owner’s policy, their no claims bonus won’t be affected if you need to make a claim.
4. Finding a driving instructor or supervisor
Until you’ve passed your test, you’re not allowed to drive without a supervisor, so no solo road trips just yet team. First things first you need to find yourself a good driving instructor. Check out this article on the 6 things to think about when choosing a driving instructor.
Then when you’re feeling confident enough, you can get some private practice outside of your lessons with a friend or family member. But no matter how good your Dad reckons he is at driving, leave it to the professionals when you’re starting out. You don’t want to pick up bad habits before you even get going.
There are a couple of rules you should know about if you’re planning on driving with a friend or family member:
- You’re NOT allowed to drive on the motorway. As a learner you can only go on the motorway in a dual control car with a qualified driving instructor.
- Your supervisor needs to have been driving for 3 or more years.
- They’ve got to be 21 or over. Some insurance providers will push it to 25 years. But with our learner driver insurance, you’re all good with a supervisor who is 21, as long as they’ve been driving for 3 years.
Want to know what all the rules are around supervising a learner driver? Check out our full article here.
5. Prepare for your theory test
The test is split into two sections: multiple choice and hazard perception. It’s based on three books:
These books can definitely help with theory test revision. But there are also lots of great apps and online resources that cover everything you need to know.
Book your theory test ahead of time! More often than not, there’s a long waiting list for test slots. You can’t take your practical test until you’ve passed your theory. And knowing the highway code will help you on your journey of learning to drive. You can book your theory test here. You’ll need your license number, email address and a card to cover the £23 fee.
First driving lesson tips
So, your first ever driving lesson is coming up. You’re realising you’ll soon have the responsibility of sitting in the driver’s seat. It’s a little nerve racking. Beat those nerves by making sure you’re up to speed on how to prepare and what to expect. Let’s go.
- Brush up on the highway code. Have a look at some of the theory test resources available so you know the basics before you get behind the wheel.
- Watch a YouTube video of a driving lesson to give you an idea of what’s coming.
- Find out what the deal is with payment; do you need to bring cash or will you bank transfer the money?
- Don’t forget your provisional license and glasses/contact lenses if you need them.
- Make sure you’re clear on where you’re getting picked up and at what time. It’s a good idea to be prepared and get there 5 minutes early.
What to expect on your first driving lesson
Depending on where you get picked up, you may not get behind the wheel straight away. If you live on a busy main road, your driving instructor will pick you up and drive to a more quiet area. And if you’re panicking that you have literally no idea what you’re doing, don’t worry. Your instructor will use your first lesson to run through all the basics.
What’s the cockpit drill?
The cockpit drill is probably the first thing you’ll get taught on your driving lesson. ‘Cockpit drill’ makes it sound a bit scary and complicated. But it’s just a series of checks all drivers should do before they turn their car on.
- Doors – are the boot, the bonnet and all doors closed properly?
- Seat – is your seat adjusted to the right position? You should be able to reach all the control pedals without having to stretch.
- Steering – is your steering wheel adjustable? Your hands should be resting comfortably a little lower than your shoulders.
- Seatbelt – it’s time to get buckled in.
- Mirrors – adjust all your mirrors properly to avoid blind spots.
What are you likely to cover in your first lesson?
- The cockpit drill.
- How to use all the controls – accelerator, clutch, brake, handbrake, and indicators.
- Checking your mirrors and blindspots.
- Moving off safely using the ‘Prepare, Observe, Move’ routine.
- How to change gears.
- Clutch control using the biting point.
- Safely stopping the car and pulling up to park on the road.
Still nervous about learning to drive?
We know it may sound like a lot, but don’t forget that your instructor will have dual controls. That means they have pedals on their side of the car, so they can help you out if you’re struggling. They’ll guide you through everything at your own pace. You don’t need to have it all figured out on your first lesson. Like anything, being a good driver comes with time and practice. You’ll be great. Good luck!