We've put together a helpful guide to help answer any questions you may have around learning to drive
Should I learn to drive before university?
It’s hard to say what you should or shouldn’t do, but learning to drive as soon as possible is usually easier. There’s more time to learn and a lot less stress before university, which is why many people choose to learn while they’re still in school or college. After leaving university you’ll likely be working full time which will make it harder to fit in the lessons.
Driving makes moving to and from university easier and you generally become more independent a lot faster. Also the sooner you learn, the sooner you can start earning your no-claims bonus. Even if you decide not to get a car after passing your test, if there’s an emergency and you need to drive somewhere, you can! Driving is an important skill to have and it’s generally better to learn sooner rather than later.
Can I learn to drive before I pass my theory?
Of course! All you need to start learning to drive is your provisional licence. You can decide to do the theory test before the lessons but you learn a lot of what you need for the theory test during your lessons. Learning this way instead of only doing revision from books can make the information much easier to remember.
Tips for learning to drive with Asperger’s
- First, tell the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) when you apply for your provisional licence. You can be fined up to £1000 if you don’t inform the DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving.
- Find an instructor with experience teaching people with Asperger’s. They have the experience to deal with problems and help you overcome obstacles. For example they can suggest whether changing to an automatic car is a good idea, if using a manual gear-change seems too difficult.
- Know your weaknesses. If you know that you have particular trouble with multi-tasking then let your instructor know so you can work on it.
- Learn coping mechanisms. If you have trouble with concentration while driving, learn the different sounds that the car makes. You’ll start to remember the ones that are normal ‘driving sounds’ and be able to put them in the back of your mind. Talk to your instructor for more coping mechanisms!
- Try to see the big picture on the road and don’t fixate anything for long. This involves keeping track of where vehicles are around you, looking ahead to see if traffic lights are changing, noticing if the car in front is signalling – should you start braking now? While it’s important to notice details, don’t let that distract you from everything else that’s happening around you.
- Stay calm and focused. It’s incredibly important not to get distracted while driving, even when things like multi-tasking can be challenging. Take your time and take regular breaks. It will get easier with practice!
Tips for learning to drive with anxiety
- Find a sympathetic instructor. If your instructor understands and supports you, you’ll feel more relaxed behind the wheel and start to gain more confidence. Ask friends and family about their instructors and if they found them supportive enough.
- Plan out your lessons at the start. Talking to your instructor about what you want to achieve that lesson and getting a rough plan of where you want to go can help you visualise the drive before you start. This can help calm the nerves and lessen anxiety.
- Make your car into something you feel comfortable and positive in. For example, you could spray some perfume and make the car smell like home. By making the car smell like somewhere you feel safe, you’ll start to associate the car with that feeling and turn the car into a positive environment.
- Take your time. If you make a mistake try to stay calm. Every driver had to learn at some point and people are usually more understanding than you’d think. For example, give an apologetic wave to people if you’ve stalled at a junction. Admit mistakes and carry on.
- Remember that your instructor is there to help you. They won’t put you in situations you aren’t ready for; they’re there to teach you how to handle yourself on the roads. Trust your instructor and if you don’t feel ready for something, tell them! They’ll help you through something you don’t understand or you feel nervous about.
- Try not to stress yourself unnecessarily. It’s okay if you’re not a perfect driver on your first lesson, it takes a some people 50+ lessons without anxiety trying to pull them down all the time. Small progress is still progress and you should take your time if you need to.
- Remember that anxiety isn’t logical. It’s the brain coming up with the worst possible scenarios and making you think that they’ll happen. You have to remember that these thoughts are illogical and then remind yourself what is much more likely to logically happen. When you realise the amount of safety measures in cars you’ll start to feel much better.
Tips for learning to drive with pregnancy
Just because you are pregnant does not mean you shouldn’t learn to drive. Whether you started learning before the pregnancy or you’re just planning to start, you shouldn’t let it stop you. However there are important points to consider:
- You must be able to position yourself in the car for safe driving. This means you must have complete control of the pedals without the use of pedal extenders which aren’t allowed in the test. If your bump is in the way you must stop driving. You must also wear the seat belt in the correct position with the lap belt below the bump and the shoulder belt across your chest.
- You should try and pass your test before your third trimester as that’s when most doctors will advise you to stop driving anyway.
- Always see a doctor if you are involved in an accident, even if it’s just a minor one. You might not feel hurt but it isn’t worth the risk to your baby.
- Take breaks during your lessons. They don’t have to be long breaks; just enough to make sure your circulation is okay, especially in your legs.
Tips for learning to drive with physical disabilities
Being disabled should not be a block to learning to drive. If you have a minor disability you can probably learn in a standard car or one with only minor modifications. If your disability is more severe then more modifications to the car may be necessary. These can include:
- Power assisted steering
- Left-foot accelerator
- Joystick steering
- Gear shift extension
- Hand controls
- Remote control devices
To find out specifically what you need in order to learn to drive, it is advisable you seek the services of a specialist Driving Assessment Centre in your local area. It’s also important that you make sure your instructor is qualified to deal with these modifications and can teach you the different techniques properly.
Can I learn to drive at 16?
Some people with certain disabilities, involving impaired mobility, can actually start their driving tuition in a proper car at 16. But everyone else can only start to learn to drive a car at 17.
However, at age 16 you still have options if you want your own transport. Once you have a provisional licence and have completed CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) you can drive a moped or scooter (with an engine up to 50cc at a max speed 28mph) on the road while you practice for your full test. You can also drive lightweight vehicles called quadricylces. These have the same requirements as mopeds and the same max speed, they’re just more car-like.
Can I learn to drive in my own car?
Yes. Depending on who you choose as an instructor, you can decide to learn in your own car instead of the instructors’ car. However it’s worth being aware that instructor cars are often fitted with dual controls, allowing the instructor to assist in emergencies which is particularly useful in the first few lessons. Certain driving instructors will only teach in their car because of this, whereas others don’t mind as much.
If you want to learn in your own car, some instructors will ask that you take at least one lesson in their car to assess your abilities and see if you’ll be okay without the dual controls.
Dual controls make lessons in an instructor’s car safer, but instructors also prefer teaching in their own car because they are familiar with it. For example if you’re having a problem with the clutch, your instructor should be able to resolve the issue very quickly. If you’re learning in your own car, the instructor will have a harder time helping you through the problem.
If you choose to learn in your own car you will also need to make sure that the instructor is insured on your car. If for some reason you are unable to drive and the instructor has to take over it’s important that they are fully covered in case of an accident.
Will my driving test be cancelled if there is bad weather?
The DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) is unlikely to carry out a driving test in bad weather conditions (such as ice, snow, excessive rain or fog) if they feel it will be unsafe for the driver and examiner. They will try and let the test go ahead where possible but will cancel if there are safety concerns. On a day with weather bad enough to cause a cancellation in the morning, they will keep up to date with weather forecasts and try to find unaffected routes. This means that afternoon tests could still go on, so ring the test centre to be sure!
If it is the day of your test and there is ice or snow on the roads near you, ring the test centre. Don’t ring the day before as they won’t be able to tell you if your test will be cancelled until the day of the test.
If your test does get cancelled then the test centre will reschedule at no extra cost to you. This usually happens within about 3 working days but can take longer if the bad weather continues.
Changes to the UK driving test
Many people will be familiar with the standard format of the UK driving test. However this is changing to remove some parts of the test and include others. The DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) are proposing to:
- Increase the ‘independent driving’ section from 10 to 20 minutes. This is to gain a better understanding of how the driver makes their own decisions and is aware of road signs, etc.
- Introduce a sat nav section of the test. This modernisation will make sure that drivers can use a sat nav competently, without being distracted.
- Remove the manoeuvres ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road. These will still be taught in lessons but not examined.
- Include manoeuvres that will be used more in real-life, such as driving into and reversing out of a parking space.
- Ask one of the two vehicle safety questions during the drive instead of asking both at the beginning of the test. It’s important to know that the information can be used while driving and not just at a stand-still.
Trying to cut the costs of learning to drive? Our helpful tips might be able to save you some money.