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What you need to know before learning to drive

Learning to drive is an exhilarating experience, and it's invaluable skill you'll use throughout your life. But before you get going, there are some need-to-knows for the journey ahead.


 

Legal requirements for driving in the UK

There are some basic requirements you need to know before you start learning to drive in the UK:

  • You'll need to be 17 or older. If you get, or have applied for, the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), you can begin driving lessons when you're 16.
  • You need to have a valid provisional driving licence.

If you 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.

In addition:

  • You must be able to read a number plate 20 metres away (with glasses or contact lenses, if needed).
  • If you're learning with a friend or family member, you must be accompanied by a qualified driver who's over 21 and has had a full car driving licence for at least 3 years.
  • The car you learn in must be taxed, insured, have a valid MOT and 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.)

The best driving skills to learn

Driving is much more than remembering rules and technicalities. You need to learn to effectively respond to the behaviour of other drivers, road users and pedestrians.

Road safety is everyone's priority. Some of the most important characteristics of a safe driver are:

  • Diligence: Respect the rules of the road - never underestimate the serious consequences that can arise from ignoring or breaking those rules. Falling into bad habits is a common cause of avoidable accidents.
  • Focus: Never forget the importance of concentration and being aware of your surroundings. Avoid needless distractions - especially mobile devices.
  • Patience: You'll 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 flare, accidents are more likely.

Booking your driving lessons

Remember that you can only legally be charged for driving lessons if the person is either:

If you're unsure about an instructor's 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.

Driving practice with friends and family

As long as they adhere to the legal requirements, it's a good idea to supplement your lessons by practising with a family member or friend.

Regular practice helps to transfer what's learned in driving lessons to the real world of driving, and has 3 main benefits:

  • The basic skills learnt in driving lessons can be practiced, developed and reinforced.
  • You'll be exposed to a much wider variety of trips, traffic densities, road types and weather/light conditions.
  • Driving itself becomes a much more 'normal' daily task.

You'll need your own insurance if you’re practising in your own car. This should also cover the person in the car with you. If you’re practising in someone else’s car, you need to make sure their policy covers you.

Tips for teaching a learner driver

Helping someone learn to drive can be lots of fun, if you follow these golden rules.

If you're a learner driver planning on driving with friends or a family member:

  • Find someone with patience who's regularly available for practice sessions.
  • Talk to your driving instructor to make sure the practice is in line with what you're focusing on in your driving lessons.
  • Plan in regular supervised practice so it gradually exposes you to new driving situations.
  • Use your supervised practice log sheets to record your progress and number of hours, and see what you might be missing.

If you're planning on teaching a learner driver how to drive: 

  • It’s illegal for you to use a mobile phone or be under the influence of alcohol while supervising.
  • Stay alert - don't assume the learner driver knows what they're doing.
  • Build up the length of time spent practicing so that everyone remains positive and looks forward to the next session. And take as many breaks as you both need.
  • Be clear and concise, and give the learner driver plenty of notice when you're giving instructions.
  • Choose routes carefully and avoid motorways as learner drivers can only go on them with an approved driving instructor who has dual controls.

Who's legally in charge of the car when family and friends teach learner drivers?

If you're supervising a learner driver, you have the same legal responsibilities as if you were driving the car. That's why you're not allowed to drink or use your mobile phone. As the qualified driver, you're deemed the person in control of the vehicle. 

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* Survey of AA Driving School pupils who passed their test in 2018.