learning to drive

Nervous about your first driving lesson?

You will probably be excited but very nervous before your first driving lesson, after all, learning to drive is a big deal for most people.

But nerves aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Sportsmen and women, actors, and all sorts of people usually agree that butterflies in the tummy and a little self questioning helps improve performance.

On the other hand, learner drivers who are over-confident, or feel they know everything, could be in for a nasty shock when they eventually get behind the wheel. And more shocks could be in store when, heaven forbid, they actually get moving and their instructor tries to steer them towards driving proficiency.

But how do you ensure the nerves don’t turn you to panic? The key, as with most things in life, is preparation. What’s the naff old saying? Fail to prepare and prepare to fail! So when you prepare for your first lesson it’s a good idea to read up or watch basic videos about how to drive, and to find out what to expect when the driving instructor arrives to pick you up.

The first thing to remember is that your instructor should be qualified and able to help you with your nerves. They will get to know you so they can understand what you are capable of achieving in each lesson, what you are confident in doing and what you would be willing to try.

Here are some more tips that can help you beat your nerves in your first driving lessons.

The first thing in your first lesson

When your new instructor arrives for your first lesson he or she will need to check you are legal to drive, so have your provisional licence with you. If you haven’t yet got your provisional you should apply for one now.

The first lessons will likely take place on quieter roads, so depending on where you live you may or may not drive from home as the instructor may need to take you to a quieter spot to talk you through the fundamentals of driving and explain how everything works.

The cockpit drill

When you take to the driver’s seat your instructor will go through the “cockpit drill” pointing out the main instruments on the dashboard and all the equipment you will be using. This will include the rear view mirror, the gears (or gear shift if you are learning in an automatic), the accelerator, clutch and brake pedals (of accelerator and brake for automatics), and the handbrake.

The instructor will also talk about the “blind spot”, the areas to the sides of the car that can’t be seen in your rear mirror or side mirrors. To check them you will have to physically turn your neck and look to the side and behind.

The familiarisation could take up 30 minutes, which could well be half of your first lesson, unless you have done your homework.

Find a RED Driving Instructor near you

Find a RED Driving Instructor near you

RED’s experienced instructors operate nationwide. So whether you’re learning in Newcastle or Norwich or Plymouth or Preston, they’ll find the perfect instructor to help you on your journey to passing.

Let’s get going

Yes, you will drive on your first lesson. But before you do the instructor will talk you through the checks you need to make before starting a journey and how to turn on the engine, how to feel for the biting point of the clutch, make diligent observations, and pull away and converge into the traffic flow safely. The instructor will also talk about stopping the vehicle safely, which is also quite important!

Initially you will have to think hard about everything you are doing — just moving the car will probably seem like a battle of wills against wheels — but before long these things will come as second nature and you will hardly realise you are doing them.

That doesn’t mean you can relax. Driving safely requires the utmost concentration at all times.

Despite that, your lessons should be an enjoyable experience and you never know, you may even grow to like and respect your driving instructor!

And just in case

Qualified driving instructors use dual control cars for your (and their) added safety. Dual control cars have pedals on the passenger’s side of the car, as well as those on the driver’s side. They allow the driving instructor to stop the car if they need to. If you are learning in a manual dual control car it will have an extra brake and clutch pedal, if it’s automatic there will only be a brake pedal. That means the instructor can stop the car if need be, but he cannot make it go faster.

Having control of the clutch too, the instructor will be able to help you get to grip with biting points, especially on the difficult hill start.

Adrian Flux has a raft of insurance policies for learner drivers with costs starting from as little as 75 pence a day, and a specialist section on its website full of useful information for those who are thinking about taking lessons or who are getting set to take their driving test.