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Finally driving around in your own car is a wonderful feeling. Getting your own licence gives you the freedom to drive wherever you want, with your friends or without anyone accompanying you.

While some people eagerly wait for the day when they’re able to take their driving test and get their own driving licence, the driving test can be a nerve-wracking experience for others. The pressure can get the best of us, and even expert drivers can end up making mistakes on the day of the driving test.

There are no secrets to passing the driving test. All you need to do is keep calm and remember everything that you learnt during your driving lessons.

To help you keep your nerves under control, we’ve made a list of the most common mistakes that you should avoid, along with driving test tips to help you learn quickly and pass your test.

Top tips for learning to drive quickly
Common driving mistakes
Tips to help you get rid of your nerves
Tips for parents teaching their children how to drive

Top tips for learning to drive quickly

1. Learn about your car

Sitting in the driver’s seat for the first time and seeing so many buttons and controls in front of you can be daunting. By getting to know your car better, you can learn to drive quickly as it’s one less thing to worry about when you’re on the road.

Start with the basics, the ABCs: accelerator, brake and clutch. Then, familiarize yourself with all the other functions of the car including the gearbox, defogger, remote fuel and boot lid opener, central lock, child safety lock, infotainment system and so on.

To learn more about your car, take a look at the car’s manual or search about it online.

2. Adjust your seat to a comfortable position

The seat’s position is very important when you’re behind the wheel as you should feel comfortable when you’re driving especially for long distances.

Everyone feels comfortable in different seat adjustments as it varies according to your height and personal preferences. If someone else was driving your car before you, the seat’s position might feel awkward or uncomfortable, so make sure that you adjust the seat according to your needs before you start driving.

Your seat should be at a distance where it’s easy for you to reach the pedals — your heels should easily touch the floor and the balls of your feet should be able to press against the pedals.

Adjust your seat’s height so that your hips are at the same level as your knees. You can do this by pulling the lever outside your seat cushion up or down. In case your car doesn’t have a height adjustor for the seats, you can sit on a pillow to get a clear front view.

You should also adjust your seat’s recline so that it isn’t reclined back too far.

If your current seating adjustment hurts your legs or back, try and find a new adjustment for yourself.

3. Slow and steady wins the race

Don’t be worried if it takes you longer than others to learn to drive as it’s a very personal experience, and the amount of time it takes to learn this skill differs from person-to-person.

Learning to drive takes a lot of patience. People usually underestimate the time it takes to learn to drive. However, driving is a skill that can be mastered by learning the theory and practical part of it.

By dedicating a few hours each day to driving, you can become an expert driver in no time.

4. Practice, practice and practice

Driving lessons are a great way to learn how to drive, but to become road-ready, you need to spend time outside your lessons to practice what you learn.

Try and perfect what you’ve learnt in your lessons before trying to skip ahead to what hasn’t been taught yet.
You should also practice in a car that’s similar to the one you’re learning to drive in so that you’re familiar with the functionality.

If you’ve just started learning how to drive, you should start practising on your own at a time when there isn’t much traffic on the roads such as early morning. Once you’re more confident, you should start practising on different road conditions. Find out more about how to drive at night and in bad weather conditions.

When you’re practising outside your lessons, you can record your practice session using a form available on gov.uk, and show it to your driving instructor so that they know how much you’re learning, and which areas need improvement.

Remember, your provisional driving licence allows you to drive only when someone with a full driving licence is accompanying you.
practice driving at night

5. Keep distractions away

While driving, it’s easy to get distracted when your phone rings or when a friend or family member starts talking to you. However, when you’re driving, your full attention should be on the road and all distractions should be kept away.

Distractions are not only dangerous, they can be costly as well. New drivers can lose their licence if they’re caught using their mobile while driving whereas drivers with a full licence can get six points penalty and a fine of £200.

There are three main types of distractions to be aware of:
• Physical distractions that can make you take your hands off the steering wheel — like mobile phones, tablets, food, bags and so on

• Mental distraction that can make you stop paying attention to the road — like talking to friends and family, or thinking about something else that’s going on outside

• Visual or audio distractions that can make you start looking elsewhere — like texts, emails, sat nav, loud music, something distracting on the road and so on

To avoid getting distracted, make sure that you set up your sat nav before you start driving, and put your phone on silent so that you’re not checking it each time you get a notification or call.

Clear your head before you start driving and try to remain calm and focused. If you’re playing music, then make sure that it’s at a low volume so that it doesn’t distract you or play over the sat nav’s volume.

Having pets in the car can also be a source of distraction, so avoid driving with them especially if you’ve just started learning.

6. Drive around your neighbourhood

Start learning to driving on roads that you’re familiar with. This will help keep your focus on driving rather than finding directions.

Your neighbourhood is a great place to start learning as all the roads and traffic lights would be familiar to you, which can help you gain confidence quickly.

7. Wear comfortable shoes

Pick out your most comfortable shoes with a good grip to learn driving in.

Driving in boots, heels or flip-flops is not just uncomfortable, but it can also cause your foot to slip-off the pedal or press the wrong pedal.

8. Choose a suitable driving instructor

If you choose a driving instructor, make sure that you feel comfortable with them and confident in their teaching abilities. You should be able to communicate with them freely and feel at ease with the instructor, as learning to drive can be a stressful experience.

Your driving instructor should be DVSA approved, and should also be able to support your learning needs.

Know more about how to choose a driving instructor.

9. Ask your driving instructor questions

Once you’ve found a suitable driving instructor for yourself, ask them as many questions as you can. This will help you in learning quickly, as well as prepare you for your driving theory test.

10. Have a positive mindset

Your mindset can directly impact how quickly you learn to drive. Start your lessons with a positive attitude and a mindset to learn something new. This way you won’t be afraid to follow your driving instructor’s guidelines, and in case you make mistakes, you’ll learn from them rather than getting discouraged.

If you start thinking that you can’t learn to drive, then you won’t be able to take the first step for learning. Having a negative mindset can also lead you to make more mistakes, so just trust your driving instructor, and follow their instructions.
positive mindset while learning to drive

Common driving mistakes to avoid at your driving test

1. Know the rules at junctions

Since 2006, careless observations at junctions has been the number one reason why people fail their driving test, according to the DVSA.

Junctions refer to the point where two roads join. Joining a road where there is traffic flowing in can be tricky as you need to wait for the right moment to join in and there can be pressure to move quickly if there’s a line of vehicles behind you.

To approach junctions, take your time and remember the Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed and Look (MSPSL) system, and check your mirrors well in advance. If there’s a lot of traffic on the road, you might have to keep checking before you join. Make sure you’re looking in the direction the car is travelling before exiting the junction, as this is a very common mistake.

If you’re turning right, position the car just left of the centre of the road markings. If you’re turning left, stay approximately a metre away from the kerb where there’s enough room to do so.

2. Check your mirrors

You should make it a habit to check your mirrors often when you’re driving, especially when changing directions, turning, overtaking and starting or stopping your car.

Make sure you check your interior mirror and the appropriate door mirror before changing directions. Once you’ve checked the speed and distance of surrounding vehicles using the mirrors, signal them using the indicators and then finally you can change your direction.

3. Practice your steering control

You should make sure that you always have proper control of the steering wheel:

• Both of your hands should properly grip the steering wheel in a nine and three position.
• When turning, make sure that you don’t lose control of the steering wheel and let it steer itself.
• Make sure that you stay in your lane, and that you don’t mount the kerb.

Controlling your steering wheel during winters becomes difficult. Learn more about driving in icy conditions.
practice your steering control

4. Move off safely

It can take some time to learn how to start your car and get it moving, especially in a manual car.

The driving examiner tests your ability to move off safely by asking you to pull your car to the left and then driving off when you’re ready.

• Make sure you first check your mirrors for any incoming traffic
• Once the road is clear, you should then signal using your indicators and then start driving once it’s safe to do so
• Remember to keep your car in the first gear if driving a manual
• Don’t start driving too quickly as it can cause the car to jerk

Forgetting to use first gear, rolling backwards or failing to check blind spots before moving away are common mistakes that you should avoid.

5. Check your car is positioned correctly when driving

The examiner will check if your car’s position is within the width of the road.

To make sure that you don’t make any mistakes, drive within the lane markings and in the middle. You should also avoid switching lanes unnecessarily and driving too close to the left-hand kerb.

If you want to overtake the vehicle in front of you, make sure that you do so using the right-hand side lane or lanes on a dual carriageway.

Lanes leading up to a roundabout or major junction often catch drivers out, so look for the signs as early as possible and give yourself plenty of time to enter the correct lane.

If you enter a different lane to the one specified by your examiner, you won’t be marked negatively for deviating from the route, so don’t be tempted to try to correct your direction at the last minute.

6. Reverse Parking

Reverse parking can be tricky and can make you feel under pressure during the test.
To avoid making mistakes, remember to:

• Change your gear to reverse; this helps in signalling other vehicles near you
• Keep the speed down to maintain control of the car
• Turn the steering wheel in the right direction
• Properly observe and calculate the area where you’ve to park: line your door mirror with the back of the vehicle that you’re parking next to, and then proceed to reverse park
• Make sure there’s enough space between you and the vehicles next to your car

7. Respond to traffic signs

It’s important that you learn the various road signs and signals so that you’re able to identify them when you’re driving around.

If you see a speed limit sign, make sure that you slow down before you enter the road. The same applies to higher limit areas; don’t speed up until you’ve passed the sign.

Be careful when driving around road closures and traffic cones as there are road workers working, and if you don’t slow down or miss the signs, you can be a risk to not just yourself but others on the road as well.

8. Look out for traffic lights

Traffic lights ensure that the traffic moves smoothly.

Always make sure that you’re looking out for traffic lights.

All traffic lights are fitted with cameras that’ll catch you instantly if you run a red light, so make sure that you stop when the signal is or is about to turn red.

When stopping for a red light, make sure you that don’t stop over the pedestrian crossing or cycle lane.

9. Don’t be too nervous

Nerves can be another reason why people commonly fail their driving test as being on the spot can cause you to behave in ways that you wouldn’t in normal circumstances.

To feel less anxious, try to visualise passing the test. Your instructor sends you for the driving test only when they feel confident that you’ve learnt how to drive properly, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pass.

If you still feel nervous, we have put together a few more ways to calm your nerves during the driving test.
nervous learner driver on the road

Driving test tips to help you get rid of your nerves

1. Practice as much as possible

Mock tests are a great way to understand how the real test will happen. Make sure that you take at least one of these tests to help you get familiarised with the format. This will also help you see how much you’re scoring, and if you’re prepared for the test or need some more time to revise.

2. Prepare in advance for the test day

The night before your test, make sure that you have all the documents you need for your test ready. These include your driving licence, theory test certificate, and confirmation email or letter of the appointment.

3. Familiarise yourself with the test centre

When you’re learning how to drive, practice around the driving test centre where you’ll be taking your test so that you get used to the location and the roads.

On the day of the test, it’s best to reach the test centre early, as rushing at the last moment will just add to your nerves.

4. Eat and drink well

Nerves can reduce your appetite, but it’s important to eat something before the test so that you have enough energy for the day and can concentrate during your test.

Have food that’s going to keep you full throughout the test and that’ll keep you in an upbeat mood. Don’t drink energy drinks or coffee before a test as caffeine can heighten your nerves.

Bananas are a great choice as they’re full of vitamin B and contain tryptophan, the ‘happy hormone’, which helps in calming your nerves and keeping your mood uplifted.

5. Cope during ‘the waiting game’

Feeling anxious right before the test, when you’re sitting in the waiting room is quite normal. Try to distract yourself by using your phone or carrying a book to read. Laughter is also a great remedy for nerves, so carry a light-hearted book or look for funny content on your phone.

If you’re unable to distract yourself, try some breathing exercises to calm yourself down. This will help in soothing you and stopping your heart from racing.

Remember, once you’re on the road it’s much easier to deal with your nerves as you start concentrating on your test.

6. Stay calm in the car

Talking to someone can help you calm down, so don’t be afraid to talk to the driving examiner as it may put you at ease.
When you’re driving, just imagine that you’re driving during your normal driving lessons and remember to breathe and focus.

Sometimes when you’re nervous you can start speeding your car, so make sure that you’re driving within the speed limit. Open the window to let in some fresh air if you’re feeling hot and flustered.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with asking the examiner a question or asking them to repeat an instruction if you didn’t hear or understand it.
anxious learner driver with parent

Driving test tips for parents teaching their children how to drive

Parents or other family members can help young learner drivers, but they may need to brush up on their knowledge first.

1. Check the changes in the Highway Code

To improve road safety, the Highway Code gets reviewed and updated from time-to-time. Thus, you should look at the most recent version of the Highway Code so that you teach your child up-to-date rules and guidelines.

You can read the High Code together with your child which will also help you brush-up your knowledge.

2. Check the changes in driving test

A number of new elements have been introduced to the driving test since 2017, to better prepare learner drivers and for safer roads.

The changes include:
• ‘Show me, tell me’ questions
• Independent driving increased to 20 minutes
• Following direction from a sat nav
• Changes in reversing manoeuvres

Learn more about how the theory and practical tests are carried out, and how to prepare for these changes.

3. Be patient with your child

It’s easy to get frustrated when your child is unable to learn how to drive on their first go. This can also lead to arguments between you and your child. However, it’s important that you remain calm and respect your child’s learning speed so that they don’t feel under pressure.

You should avoid criticising your child if they make mistakes. Instead of pointing out their faults, you should ask them questions so that they learn what they did wrong.

For example, if they’re in the wrong gear, ask them, “which gear would you normally choose for this speed?” instead of, “you’re in the wrong gear”. Not only is this less confrontational, but it also allows your child to think about the right answer and learn from their mistakes.

4. Work with the driving instructor

Your driving techniques may be different from those taught by your child’s instructor. If you come across something that you don’t understand or agree with, discuss it with the instructor, and see if they can explain their technique to you.

The driving instructors follow the latest guidelines issued by the DVSA, so it’s important that your child learns to drive according to the latest test rules.

This will also help your child in learning one technique and not getting confused by different methods.

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