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Before you start learning to drive

A checklist for new learner drivers

Learning to drive is an exhilarating experience, and it creates an invaluable skill for life.

But before you get going, there are some need-to-knows for the journey ahead.

Legal requirements for learning to drive in the UK

First, in order to learn to drive there are some basic legalities. So you need to:

  • be 17 years or older
  • have a valid provisional driving licence

If want to be ready as soon as you turn 17, you can apply for your provisional licence from the age of 15 years and 9 months.

If you get, or have applied for, the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), you can begin driving a little earlier, at 16 years.

In addition, to start learning:

  • You must be able to read a number plate 20 metres away (with glasses or contact lenses, if needed).
  • You must be accompanied by a qualified driver who is over 21, and has had a full car driving licence for at least 3 years. (That person is usually a driving instructor.)
  • The car you learn in must be taxed and have a valid MOT, be insured, and have display L plates on the front and rear. (If you're learning in a qualified driving instructor's vehicle, they'll take care of this.)
Behaviour and mindset

Driving is much more than learning rules and technicalities. You need to respond to the behaviour of other drivers, road users and pedstrians.

So ultimately, road safety is the priority for everyone. And some of the most important characteristics of a safe driver include:

  • Diligence
    Respect and adhere to the rules of the road. Never underestimate the serious consequence that can arise from comprising those rules. Falling into bad habits is a common cause of avoidable accidents.
  • Focus
    Never forget the importance of concentration and awareness of your surroundings. So avoid needless distractions (especially mobile devices).
  • Patience
    You will share the road with many others, and it's important to remain calm and patient with them. When patience is lost, and tempers begin to flair, accidents are more likely.
  • Conscientiousness
    Going from A to B, living a busy life, visting places, family and friends. Whatever your journey, remember to be polite and friendly towards your fellow drivers.
Driving lessons and practice

Once you're eligible to begin learning, and you're confident you can adopt the right mindset, well it's then time to learn properly,

Driving lesson prices can vary, dependent on teaching experience and reputation. Remember though, that someone can only legally charge you for driving lessons if they are either:

  • an approved driving instructor (ADI)
  • a trainee driving instructor

If you're unsure about an instructor's advertised credentials, ask to see their Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) badge – it should be displayed on their car windscreen. A green badge means they're an approved driving instructor. A pink badge means they're a trainee.

But if you decide to learn to drive with the AA Driving School, you won't notice any pink badges – we only use fully qualified, approved driving instructor.

Help from a friend or family

It's perfectly fine, and often helpful, to supplement your lessons with regular practice accompanied by a family member or friend, as long as they adhere to the legal requirements covered at the beginning of this article.

Do you know someone who could help you practise when you're learning? They may be interested in the AA Driving School 2-hour in-car course, which will refresh their skills and ensure that you get the best out of your practice sessions.

For more information about our refresher lessons for people helping learners, call us on 0800 316 2724.


The next step

All set to learn? Here are some essentials you need to check out: