What learner drivers should know before getting in a car
It can be extremely useful for learner drivers to put themselves into the right mindset for learning to drive, even before getting in a car for the first time. We spoke with leading driver trainers from across the United Kingdom to hear what they suggest learners know first.
We recommended the following tips to learners and for driving instructors to share with their prospective pupils ahead of their first lesson. Feel free to share this article or fold the tips you like into your introduction.
Here's what learners should take into consideration before getting in the car for their first driving lesson:
- Driving is a skill for life
- Know your motivations
- Understand your strengths and weaknesses
- Get a jump-start on theory
- Observe while a passenger
- Improve hand-eye coordination
- It's okay to make mistakes
- A car should be respected
- Everyone learns at different rates
Driving is a skill for life
You only learn to drive once. Unless you move to different country with different tules, or stop driving for several years, this is a skill you will retain throughout your years.
Understand that you're making a truly long-lasting investment, so take your time, treat it seriously, open yourself up to learning new techniques and you'll set yourself up for success.
Neil Wightman, an award-winning driving instructor who took home the prize of Training Hero of the Year 2018, shares that "There are many aspects to driving, not just control of the vehicle, but behaviours, attitudes and how emotions affect what we do has human beings."
Approaching learning to drive with the mindset that you'll be learning a vast array of other skills.
You may be surprised to hear that passing your driving test is really only the beginning. Gaining your driving licence is proof you have met a standard of driving to go out on your own. You're at the start of your journey and it will be up to you independently. As Susan McCormack, trainer of driving instructors, says "The test does not make someone a great driver; it only ensures the learner is safe and responsible enough to go out on the road and continue to self-develop".
Know your motivations
What kind of driving are you going to be doing once you pass your test? Will you primarily be driving to get to/from work, will driving be part of your work, will it be to go shopping, or as part of a holiday? Perhaps you want to drive your friends to a festival.
You can share these goals with your driving instructor, so that they can frame your learning around the various goals you have.
This also helps to keep you motivated. You'll be making progress towards your goals each week. Susan McCormack suggests using these to think through what problems they could face and the strategies that could be put in place to deal with these problems. "This is helping to develop life skills and is far more effective than the traditional fault-focused approach".
Understand your strengths and weaknesses
Are you a confident person? Nervous? Are you quick to anger, get into a tizz or are you a total go-getter and just love life?
Share these things about yourself with your driving instructor. This will allow them to understand what motivates you, but importantly, help them predict how you might react or how you might feel in different scenarios and situations on the road.
You can also try thinking about how certain personality traits you have, that you think are negative, could be viewed as a positive. So if you're worried about learning to drive because you're a nervous person, realise that the strength in that is you are likely to think through decisions more, which could result in your being more careful.
Get a jump-start on theory
A common suggestion from leading instructors like Neil Wightman, Kate Fennelly and Rob Cooling, which we suspect many learners will not be fans of (😬) is to get a start on your theory as soon as possible.
The upside is that this doesn't require a car, a provisional licence or spending much, if any money. At GoRoadie we send learners who request an instructor through us a free Highway Code Traffic Signs eBook. We also have our Learner Guide that contains explanations of driving skills, traffic warning and information signs, and more.
Theory is something that driving instructors will help answer questions of, but it's something they feel your hourly lesson fee is wasted on, when you can learn for minimal cost at home.
Some learners may also struggle with retaining certain aspects of the theory and you need to pass your theory before sitting your practical test. You don't want to be stopped in your tracks from sitting your driving test, because you haven't passed your theory.
If you've started on your theory before your first lesson, then there's a really good chance you'll be on track to have that passed before your practical.
Observe while a passenger
Being a passenger in a car beside someone who has a few years of experience driving under their belt is a great way to get familiar by the types of actions required.
Watch how they start, stop, pull up at junctions, how they do safety checks and how they flow with other traffic around them. Ask questions to learn more.
Electric car driving instructor, Rob Cooling recommends observing other drivers: "observe roundabout traffic flow when you are on the bus or just walking by a junction. A lot can be learned just through observation allowing the brain to process how traffic flows."
Improve hand-eye coordination
Rob also recommends participating in sports and/or playing computer games as a way of developing both hand-eye coordination and reaction speeds. These are "critical skills which, if weak, can dramatically slow the learning pace during lessons"
Being able to observe and spot potential hazards is a key requirement before you'll be able to gain your licence and being able to operate the vehicle safely, without taking your eyes off the road, is a requirement of the Show me, Tell me stage of your driving test.
It's okay to make mistakes
Stewart Lochrie, managing director of Caledonian Learner Driver Training wants to assure learners that "It’s okay to get things wrong".
It's obviously scary to think that you'll be making mistakes in a large, moving vehicle, but you will have a driving instructor with you and they have dual-controls. They are observing the road around you, they will ensure you don't get yourself into too much bother and alert you before making any serious mistakes.
Trust in that process and allow yourself to bounce back and try again whenever a mistake occurs.
A car should be respected
A car is large, heavy, moving object.
Mike Spooner driving school owner and organiser of the massively successful driving instructor trade show (aptly named the Driving Instructor Show), encourages learners to understand straight away that the car is "a dangerous machine and you have to be careful with it"
Yes, it can make you a bit anxious to think about, but as mentioned in the previous topic you will have a driving instructor with you, with control over the vehicle and is someone who is always observing you and your surroundings.
Accept the reality of the car and appreciate what it does and provides to you.
Everyone learns at different rates
It takes on average 47 hours of professional lessons before someone passes their driving test. The government also recommend an additional 22 hours of private.
Unfortunately, it can be common where friends, peers or even parents grow impatient or simply can't appreciate why someone may be taking so long to pass their test.
What people need to know is that todays roads are busier than ever and the rules of the road and the test all change. Kate Fennelly, driving instructor association chairman and trailer trainer encourages parents to educate themselves "Parents need to be updated on what's required to pass a test these days. It takes far longer than they expect."
There's a lot to take in there, but most things are quite small and really just things to be aware of or to give a little consideration to.
Have we missed anything? Leave a comment on Facebook. We'd love to update the article to include your suggestions!