25 January 2016

From L to P: My Top Tips for Learning to Drive.

One of the best gifts I received for my 30th birthday at the end of 2014 was a block booking of driving lessons from my in-laws and on the 5th January I passed my test. Before I started I was a nervous wreck. I’d never had a reason to drive so never bothered however moving slightly out of town it now makes sense and it also gives Jamie a bit of break. My MIL was recommend Mike at Mike Avern DriverTraining (also on Facebookby her college friend and although I would highly recommend Mike myself you do have to find an instructor who’s right for you which takes me to top tip #1. 
1. Find a good instructor. And by good, not just good at their job but also a good, nice person. Learning to drive is a scary, nerve-wracking experience without being taught by someone you don’t like. My worry was an instructor who would shout at me for doing something wrong and unfortunately they do exist, luckily Mike came highly recommended and was a joy to work with.

2. Get your theory test out the way early. I downloaded two apps’ for my phone and practiced/studied for about 2-3 weeks, even then there were two questions on my test that I’d never come across before. There are two parts, multiple choice and hazard perception and you must score a certain amount on both to pass. The multiple-choice part lasts for 57 minutes and the pass mark is 43 out of 50 – bragging slightly but 49/50 – yay! The hazard perception was my worse part, I just couldn’t get the hang of it if I’m honest. The pass mark is 44 out of 75, this time I got 46 – thankfully a pass, just! There are lots of websites on line, you can buy packs with books & a disc for your PC, but for me the phone app’s worked brilliantly.

3. Trust your instructor. Roundabouts are my nemesis, I hate them, especially big ones without lights (although Sherriffhall roundabout is a nightmare!!). However I trusted my instructor when he told me I was ready to tackle these obstacles. When we first hit speeds of 70mph on the bypass, using slip roads, all things that scared the crap out of me. (What if I crash…? What if I kill us both…?) But I was in safe hands and soon learnt that.

4. Don’t be hard on yourself and think you have to master it in a short time. It took me 45 lessons, 62 hours to pass my test, and a couple of private lessons with Jamie. As a rough guide; the Driving Standards Agency research shows that the average person will need at least 47 hours of lessons and 22 hours of private practice before they pass their test. Make the most of your partner, parents, friends if the offer to give you some free lessons.

5. Bear in mind the cost. Learning to drive isn’t cheap and I’d suggest buying in bulk if you can. I was very lucky in that my mother-in-law helped out with the cost of mine but not everyone has that privilege. My lessons were £150 for 5 hours, £75 for 3 hours and at 1.5 hours per lesson it does add up. On top of this my renewed licence was £14 (£34 for a new licence), £23 for my theory test and £62 for my practical. It would be much better to save for a bit before booking some lessons up rather than having to take a break every couple of weeks.

6. Book your Practical test far in advance. The current wait time for a practical test is approx. 6-7 weeks, I’d like to think I’d have passed before the end of the year if I’d been able to get a resit sooner, however the earliest I could get with a suitable time was 9 weeks later. Personally I tried to get a time out-with rush hour, my first time was 10.24am and second was 11.21am, the other good thing was this was a time  I could use the bus lanes.

7. Don’t worry if you fail! I failed my first test at the time I was gutted and didn’t want to tell anyone I’d failed. I barely told anyone I had my test in the first place which was a plus. My first test wasn’t great, I was nervous and it wasn’t helped that I felt my examiner wasn’t interested, wasn’t happy and basically I found his attitude put me anything than at ease. In the end I failed for speeding which was a stupid mistake and not something I’d gotten into a bad habit of doing i.e. not checking my blind spot, not using my mirrors enough. What was the worst thing that happened!? I had to pay out £137 for more lessons and a new test. The plus point was those few extra lessons made me more confident. My second test (obviously) went much better, my examiner was a nice gentleman, he put me at ease, chatted a little but not too much.

8. Lastly, don’t have a massive cheesy smile on your face when your instructor takes your ‘I passed’ picture.