Getting your driving licence: the route to follow

Whether you’ve just turned 17 or you’re looking to get on the road a little later in life, the thought of getting your driving licence can be equally exciting and scary. If you haven’t had experience of learning to drive before, you may be wondering how you can get to having your very own pink licence. We’ve put together some steps to show you what you need to do and when on the road to your driving licence.
Step 1: Apply for your provisional licence
Before you even get into a car, you’ll need to apply for your provisional licence. You can actually apply for your provisional once you’re 15 years and 9 months old, but you still won’t be able to drive a car until you’ve turned 17. You can apply for your licence online, which will cost £34, or you can request a D1 form from the DVLA ordering service or from some Post Office locations. This method will cost you £43. Please note that in order to apply for your provisional licence, you will need to be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away, whether that’s with glasses, contact lenses or your natural vision. It usually takes a few weeks to receive your provisional licence once you’ve applied.
Step 2: Find an instructor
Now you’ve got your provisional, you’re ready to get behind the wheel – with supervision, of course. The best way to learn to drive is to begin lessons with a qualified driving instructor. It’s also important to find the right instructor for you – different instructors can have different styles of teaching, so don’t feel you have to stick with the same instructor if it’s not working out. Ask your friends and family who they learned to drive with, or see if any instructors in your local area are particularly well-recommended online. Price may also be a factor, as instructor rates can vary, so make sure you can afford to pay for your lessons – but don’t be tempted to go with an unqualified instructor just because they’re cheaper. Ensure that any instructor you do choose is an ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) and has a suitable car for you to learn in, equipped with dual controls.

The amount of lessons you’ll need can also vary, depending on how often you’re having them, what experience you’ve had before and how quickly you learn. Some instructors may offer intensive courses, which aim to teach you how to drive in a short period of time. In most cases, these take place over a week or two, with a few hours of lessons each day, finishing with your test on the final day. However, although these are quick, they aren’t necessarily the best way to learn and won’t suit everyone.

Another way to practice driving is to go out with a friend or family member, such as one of your parents. This person must be over 21, be qualified to drive a car and have held their licence for over 3 years. You’ll also need to be insured on the car being used for the practice, and display ‘L’ plates while you’re out to signify that you’re a learner. It’s possible to practice with family or friends alongside lessons with a professional instructor, which can support your learning in some cases – just make sure you’re following the rules when out with a non-professional instructor, as there can be consequences if you don’t.
Step 3: Take your theory
Before you take your practical test and get your full driving licence, you’ll need to pass your theory. You must be 17 or over to take this test.
The theory test is split into two parts: hazard perception, where you’ll be asked to watch short video clips and click when you spot a potential road hazard, and multiple choice questions, where you’ll be asked to answer a series of questions around the Highway Code and driving law. A theory test costs £23 to take, and take place at theory test centres across the UK – you can search for your nearest one and book online.

You can practice for your theory test in advance: if you’re already learning to drive, you may pick up some theory while out on the road. However, there are also many apps, books and other software available to help you revise for both the hazard perception and multiple-choice sections of the test. You can also take a free practice test on the Gov.UK website:
Step 4: Take your practical
You’ve passed your theory and you’ve put in the practice: now it’s time to take your test. If you’re learning to drive with a professional instructor, they’ll usually tell you when they think you’re ready to book your practical test. You can choose when you want to book your test, however, but just be aware you’ll need to have a car available on the day – these don’t get provided by the driving test centres. Usually, people use their instructor’s car, but if you decide to take your own car, make sure it meets the necessary requirements. The practical test can be booked online, and costs will vary depending on the time you take your test.

The practical test lasts for approximately 40 minutes, and take place on a public road. You’ll meet your examiner at the test centre ahead of your test, and you have the choice of whether to bring your instructor along for the test as well. Your test will comprise of the following:
  • An eyesight check (you’ll be asked to read a number plate from 20 metres away)
  •  ‘Show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions (the tell me question will be asked before you begin driving, while the show me question will be asked after you start driving. Your instructor should go over these questions with you on your lessons)
  • Test of your general driving ability (your examiner will monitor your driving on different roads and in different conditions)
  • Reversing your vehicle (you’ll be asked to complete one of three reversing manoeuvres)
  • Independent driving (you’ll spend approximately 20 minutes either following directions from a satnav, which the examiner will set up, or from traffic signs on the road)
At the end of your test, you will return to the test centre where you’ll be told whether you’ve passed or failed, as well as any major or minor faults you may have made during the test. If you pass, you’ll receive your pass certificate and your full driving licence will be sent off for, but if you fail, you will have to retake the test in order to get the licence.
Step 5: You’ve passed!
Once you’ve passed your test, you can officially drive unsupervised! There’s just a few things you’ll need to consider before hitting the road. Some people decide to carry on learning after passing their test, such as by taking a Pass Plus course. Search for local instructors offering this in your area if you’re interested – it can help to expand your driving skills by giving you further experience on the road, and in some cases many even lower the price of your insurance.

Some people buy their first car after passing their test – if this is what you want to do, make sure you’re savvy and find the right car for you. Our guide to car buying has hints and tips on what to look out for. Whether you decide to buy your own car or share someone else’s in your household, it’s really important to get insurance before you get behind the wheel. If you’re using someone else’s car, make sure that you’re added as a named driver to the insurance, so you’re covered if something happens while you’re driving it. If you’re getting your own car, you can take out your own policy: telematics policies can be particularly helpful to new drivers, as they can lower the cost of your insurance. Get a quote with WiseDriving today to find out how much you can save.

Posted on September 20, 2018

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