Online is the place to look next. Driving schools often have reviews from former customers on their websites, and while some independent instructors may be harder to gauge, it’s a good idea to meet them in advance to discuss your requirements. You may spend a lot of time in the car with them, so it makes sense to find someone you get on well with.
All UK instructors have to be licenced by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to ensure they are suitable to work with young people. You can ask to see these credentials before your first lesson.
How much will it cost?
Most driving schools and independent instructors offer introductory discounts, and it can also be cheaper to pre-pay for a block of lessons, so ask about these.
The number one complaint about driving instructors relates to money paid in advance, so make sure you get full receipts for all payments, and that you understand the conditions of any discounts or deals – do you lose money if you cancel a lesson, for example?
Should I learn to drive in a manual or an automatic car?
Remember that an automatic licence does not permit you to drive a manual car once you have passed your test. That means going for an automatic may limit your choice when buying or renting a car or van in the future.
It may also prove difficult to find a local automatic instructor and it’s worth bearing in mind, automatic driving lessons are typically more expensive than manual lessons.
How to help your children learn to drive
Parents or other family members can help young learner drivers, but they may need to brush up on their knowledge first.
Can I help my son or daughter with their theory test?
It’s a good idea to look at the most recent version of the Highway Code, which is published on the government’s website. This will keep you abreast of any changes and brush up your knowledge. Reading it together with your son or daughter is also worthwhile.
How has the test changed in recent years?
- The hazard perception test, which involves watching video clips taken from inside a vehicle and identifying hazards by clicking a computer’s mouse
- ‘Show me, tell me’ questions, two of which are asked by the examiner at the beginning of the practical test. The candidate has to demonstrate they can check a vehicle’s basic safety features, such as whether the lights or brakes work correctly. The ‘show me’ question involves a physical demonstration, while the ‘tell me’ question requires a verbal explanation
- Independent driving, which requires the candidate to drive for 10 minutes following traffic signs, a series of directions, or a combination of both
How can I avoid confrontations?
If, for example, they’re in an inappropriate gear, ask, “what gear would you normally choose for this speed?” instead of, “you’re in the wrong gear.” Not only is this less confrontational, it also allows the learner to independently come to the right decision.
What if I don’t agree with the instructor?
If your son or daughter asks you a question that you’re not sure how to answer, contact their instructor so you make sure the learner driver receives accurate information.
How to deal with driving test nerves
Our tips for tackling driving test nerves will make sure you keep your cool on the day.
Prepare as much as you can
The night before your test, make sure you have all the documents you need for your test ready. These include your driving licence, theory test certificate, and confirmation email/letter of the appointment.
Familiarise yourself with the test centre
Eat and drink well
Nerves can reduce your appetite, but it’s important to at least eat something so you have enough energy for the day and can concentrate. Don’t drink energy drinks or too much coffee before a test, as caffeine can heighten your nerves.
The waiting game
Breathing exercises are an effective calming technique, so focus as you inhale and exhale. This will have a soothing effect and stop your heart from racing. Laughing is also a great remedy for nerves and helps to boost your mood, so why not watch or read something that really makes you giggle? Remember that this is the worst bit, and most people find their nerves ease once they’re on the road.
In the car
Open the window to let in some fresh air if you’re feeling hot and flustered – this can also help to keep you alert. Watch your speed, too. People sometimes speed up when they’re nervous, so just imagine you’re on a normal lesson, breathe, and focus.
How to prepare for the ‘Show me, Tell me’ section of the driving test
Learners have to prove they can check basic safety features as part of the driving test, so it pays to swot up beforehand.
What is the ‘Show me, Tell me’ part of the driving test?
For the ‘show me’ question, the examiner will ask you to demonstrate a basic safety check. For the ‘tell me’ question, you have to explain to the examiner how you would carry out such a check.
What sorts of questions will I be asked?
Examples of ‘show me’ questions
Or, ‘show me how you would clean the windscreen using the windscreen washer and wipers'. You would have to turn on the wash/wipe function, again, possibly with the ignition or engine on.
Examples of ‘tell me’ questions
Or, ‘tell me how you would check the headlights and tail lights are working'. Tell the examiner you would turn on the light switch and walk around the vehicle to see if the lights were on (though you wouldn’t physically have to do this).
How can I prepare for the ‘show me, tell me’ part of the driving test?
Why people commonly fail the practical driving test
We examine the most common areas where things go wrong during the practical driving test, and how to avoid them.
Remember the Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed and Look (MSPSL) system when approaching junctions, and check your mirrors well in advance. Make sure you are 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 keep approximately a metre away from the kerb where there is sufficient room to do so.
Responding to road signs and traffic lights
Learner drivers are often caught out by changes in speed limits, so when you see a sign indicating a lower speed, make sure you slow down accordingly before you enter the new limit. The same applies to higher limit areas: don’t speed up until you’ve passed the sign.
Finally, a stop sign means stop – creeping past one isn’t acceptable.
However, you won’t be penalised if you enter a different lane to the one specified by your examiner during your driving test. Providing you have continued to drive safely, the examiner will not mark you down for deviating from the route, so don’t be tempted to try to correct your direction at the last minute.
Mirrors and blind spots
One of the best ways to beat nerves is to visualise passing the test. There is no reason why you should not pass, as your instructor will not send you for a test until they feel you have reached the required standard.
Tips for driving in dangerous conditions
The UK’s weather can turn in a moment, but you’ll be better prepared for the extreme if you follow our tips.
Driving in heavy rain and floods
When the road has flooded, let the car in front of you go first so you can tackle the water one at a time and keep a slow and steady pace in the middle of the road. Test your brakes are working afterwards.
Driving in strong winds
Keep an eye out for twigs or branches in the road. Take particular care early in the morning, as debris that has fallen overnight may not have been cleared yet. Avoid parking near trees or tall buildings.
If you break down in strong winds, exit the vehicle by the passenger door and move to a safe location. Lorries and other high-sided vehicles could be blown off course and veer onto the hard shoulder.
Driving in ice and snow
It may be beneficial to drive in a higher gear, as this can help your tyres to grip the ice. Stopping distances can be up to 10 times more than usual in snow and ice, so leave a large gap between the vehicles in front and drive slowly. If traffic in front of you starts to slow, brake gently – slamming them on can cause you to lose control.
If your car skids, press the clutch pedal and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. When you start to straighten up, steer along the road. Resist the temptation to brake – it will cause your wheels to lock and you’ll skid further.
Driving in fog
Be especially wary of patchy fog – one moment the road can be visible, and in an instant visibility is almost zero. Slow down gradually and give yourself and vehicles behind you time to react to whatever appears in front.
If the driver behind is too close, slow down even more to manage the gap in front and if the tailgating persists, find somewhere safe to pull over and let them pass. Don’t be tempted to follow another vehicle at speed just because they seem to be able to see.
Driving in the dark
Some modern vehicles have bright HID headlights that despite being legal and dipped, can make it hard to see. Don’t be tempted to flash your lights – that will only dazzle the other driver. Focus on the left hand edge of the road and try not to look at the approaching headlights. If in doubt, slow down.
In towns and cities, keep watch for pedestrians wearing dark clothing and cyclists without lights.
What is the Pass Plus qualification, and what are the benefits?
Passing your driving test is just the beginning. The Pass Plus course readies new motorists for night time, rural and motorway driving.
What is Pass Plus?
In order to achieve a Pass Plus qualification, a driver has to have driven in six different situations in order to add to their experience. These involve:
- Dual carriageways
- Motorway driving
- Rural roads
- Complicated city situations
- All weather conditions
- Night driving
What are the benefits?
Many insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who have completed a Pass Plus course, so you could qualify for cheaper premiums, while some local authorities offer discounts of up to 50% for Pass Plus training to residents living in their areas.