Ready to hit the road and start your driving lessons? There’s plenty for you to consider before you embark on lessons – from which instructor to pick to making sure you get the best out of a lesson.
So to help make sure you’ve thought of everything before you get behind the wheel, we spoke to approved driving instructor Richard Cooper, of Drive Learn Achieve, who’s been helping learners rip up L-plates for the past 14 years.
Here are his top tips:
1. Provisional licence and eyesight
It’s a legal requirement before you start learning to drive that you obtain a provisional driving licence from the DVLA. Your approved driving instructor (or ADI), will check your provisional licence and check you have satisfactory eyesight. You need to be able to read a number plate from at least 20 metres away.
2. Fully qualified instructor
When choosing your instructor check their qualification by looking for the colour of their badge displayed on the front windscreen of their vehicle. When someone is qualifying to become a driving instructor they can start teaching with a trainee licence, although strict terms and conditions apply.
These potential driving instructors (PDIs) must display a badge with a red triangle and an ADI displays a green octagonal badge. A fully-qualified ADI has passed all their exams and then gets assessed by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Authority (DVSA) every two to four years to make sure their teaching is kept to the required professional standard.
Some learner drivers may not feel confident with a trainee instructor as they will be less experienced but everyone has to start somewhere and that trainee will be up-to-date with all the latest information and keen to teach well. The fully-qualified instructor will likely have more experience, which is the main advantage for picking him or her.
3. Find recommended and reviewed instructors
A recommended ADI would be preferable as someone else has already done the research for you! That way you already know they can teach well. If you don't know of someone’s who is recommended, then research reviews online.
4. Feel comfortable
It's a lot easier to learn when you’re in a relaxed environment. If you're uncomfortable it may slow the learning process and demoralise you which can be expensive as stopping and starting lessons disrupts continuity.
5. Enjoy the lesson
You’re paying for a professional service and learning this life skill in an environment where making mistakes is absolutely normal - it's part of what you pay for. You wouldn't accept being shouted at or treated rudely in a shop, so why on a driving lesson? Remember, it's your money and you’re in control.
6. Good communication from both parties
If you don't understand something, don't be afraid to tell your instructor and ask as many questions as you need to.
7. Preparation before lesson
Make sure you’re fully awake and mentally prepared to learn. Don't wake up just before your lesson as your brain will not be active enough and you won't have a good lesson. Around 10 minutes before your lesson is due to start, get thinking about what you have previously learned and what your instructor has planned for your next lesson.
8. Private practice
Driving with a relative can be massively advantageous and your instructor will be able to advise on which way to proceed with it. When, where, who with and what you practice will all be very important. If your supervisor is giving contradictory advice explain this to your ADI - communication between the two is what we normally advise and is what we find works best.
9. Home study
There’s nothing stopping you preparing for your driving lessons with some home study and we recommend starting this process as soon as possible. There’s information available through the internet, books, phone apps etc. The better prepared for your lessons you are the quicker you can learn. Just make sure anything you learn from is DVSA-approved so the information is correct.