Monday, 30 April 2018

LEARNING TO DRIVE • TIPS FOR NEW LEARNERS


I have been driving for over four years now (even blogged about passing here!) and I figured that after a few recent witnesses of other road users being utter dickheads to learner drivers, and with the recent proposed changes to the driving test, I could offer would-be/current learners a couple of tips. 

Learning to drive was one of the most stressful experiences of my life, but please don't let that put you off what I'm about to tell you! Take this advice from a person who suffers terribly with a generalised anxiety disorder but has come out successfully on the other side, and is a lot better for it. 

IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN
You have to feel ready to learn to drive. It's a big commitment, and it takes up a lot of your time and money so make sure you're willing. I remember being in Sixth Form when I was 17, feeling so unsure about learning after hearing about a few boy racers from our school getting into trouble with the police - and even worse a year later when a boy the year below us was tragically killed at the wheel of his car, having only passed his test a couple of weeks prior. I lost interest in driving for a long time after that. I started learning about 3 months before my 21st birthday, when I was at university, and that felt right for me. We all have to start somewhere, it doesn't matter how old you are - you know when you're ready.

DO YOUR RESEARCH
There are so many driving schools and instructors out there so make sure to do your research. Look at their websites, their reviews, ask friends and family who they passed with (and specific instructors!). Make sure the instructor you have is right for you. They need to be qualified of course, but they also need to be calm in the stressful environment of a busy crossroad/dual carriageway so they need to make you feel equally comfortable. My brother recommended my instructor as she had taught him too. Lovely Gill! She was honestly the best - so patient, calming and friendly - exactly the kind of instructor I needed. We used to chat about everything because she had such an interesting life. Oh, and we talked about Sex and the City a lot during our 2-hour sessions actually! I still remember certain things she said that stick in my head when I'm driving to this day, including not "porridge-spooning" the gearstick and "creepin' and peepin'" when you can't see out of a junction clearly. I wish she was still teaching manual so I could recommend her to anyone in the West Sussex area!

BOOK LESSONS IN BULK
Driving lessons go by hours. Typically it takes the average person 60 hours to go from complete novice to qualified driver. That's a lot of lessons and a lot of money to spend. Most driving schools offer discounts and free hours so be sure to look into this. If I remember rightly my first 10 hours of learning were offered at half price, and once I racked up a certain amount of hours I would get an hour free or something. It's really handy, especially if you're younger or have a minimum wage job! Booking them in bulk also means that you can prepare yourself for your upcoming lessons.

FAILING FIRST TIME DOESN'T MAKE YOU A FAILURE
Honestly! I was an absolute mess every time I failed my driving test. I thought it was the end of the world and thought I was never going to pass; I even considered switching to learning in an automatic car but luckily was talked out of it and passed in a manual on my next go. I look back now and realise how little of a deal this really is in the grand scheme of things. Failing your test actually makes you a better, safer driver. This is because you're more aware of your surroundings and take more time to make important decisions at the wheel. Trust me, I've been in the car with first-time-passers and they ain't all that! I'm not encouraging you to fail first time by any means, just be aware that it's not the end of the world if a silly mistake (two of my fails were so silly and minor) hands you a fail.

KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE BUILDS CONFIDENCE
As with any kind of skill (and yes, driving is a skill no matter what anyone else says) practise makes perfect. I found that once I passed my test the real learning started. You're going solo, and that means you're in control of your vehicle and it's YOU who makes the decisions. I have always preferred driving alone. The freedom! So much freedom... You can potentially go anywhere you want now! Celebratory midnight McDonald's drive-thru? SURE THING. And you can sing (badly) at the top of your lungs and no one else can hear you. Oh, and the first time you get petrol, you feel like an absolute boss. 

So if you take anything from this post, just know that once I passed my test and was able to be alone in my little car I absolutely fell in love with driving. I honestly cannot thank my family enough for encouraging me to keep going and taking the practical test until I passed. They knew I'd regret it if I just gave up and they were, of course as always, totally right. Imagining a world without the ability to drive is unheard of for me now - feels like so long ago that I got that beautiful blue certificate. So please, keep going if you're finding it difficult. You will pass. It doesn't matter how many tests it takes you, just soldier on!
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2 comments

  1. I really needed this post as a piece of encouragement. I turned 17 in March and I've currently had around 9 lessons and although they have been going really well, I still make many mistakes and my last lesson went horrendously, nearly resulting in me having a breakdown! However, I have another one coming up this Sunday morning and I'm going to go back with a positive mindset and try my very best to keep focused and remember everything I've learnt so far. 2 months ago, I couldn't even sit in the drivers seat without panicking, so progress is progress, as they say.

    I'll definitely be coming back to read this post whenever I'm doubting myself and my abilities.

    Thank you Katie.

    Jade xx | www.simplyjadey.co.uk

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    1. Aw Jade, this was such a lovely comment, thank you for taking the time to read! You've only just started out and driving is mostly about confidence so keep going, I'm sure you're doing great. I promise that all of a sudden it will all just click and you'll pass your test in no time! Xx

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