Young people from across the UK are using their personal experiences of road safety to change people’s behaviour
A new app from watch.learn.drive the team behind the industry leading Driving Instructor Training brand SmartDriving has been designed to help you pass your practical test with flying colours.
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Theory, Hazard Perception, Highway Code, Know Your Traffic Signs, Driving Lessons - watch.learn.drive has the complete package all in one place.
watch.learn.drive. is like having your driving instructor with you whenever you want.
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They pay for the lessons, endure the hard work of learning, conquer their nerves and pass the test, and then avoid getting behind the wheel
A study by learner driver and car sharing insurance specialist Veygo by Admiral and FirstCar magazine has revealed that in the first year after passing the test, one in eight (12%) drivers across the UK avoid getting behind the wheel; they don’t want to drive. It seems an odd conclusion to the investment of time and money they have put in, especially when three quarters believe their driving skills will deteriorate if they don’t drive.
In the UK, learning to drive and gaining the hallowed licence remains popular, with two thirds (62%) of learners passing their test by the time they are 19. So why, once the ‘L’ plates are off and celebrations have died down, do so many put off driving?
Top reasons people put off driving -
- I don’t have access to a car
- It’s too expensive
- I’m at college or university and don’t need a car
- I don’t want to run a car as I’m saving money
- I’m too nervous
- I prefer to use public transport
- My family or friends drive me around
- My parents are too nervous to let me drive
It probably comes as no surprise that finances are a key concern for most, especially when so many are off to study at university with the financial and time costs involved in that. It’s a key reason why half of new drivers have no access to a car, whether buying their own or be able to use someone else’s. Furthermore, over a third (38%) of people putting off driving because they felt running a car was simply too expensive.
While this makes sense, it is perhaps worrying that after all those professional lessons, 7% of drivers said they were too nervous to go solo post-test, with 4% saying their parents were too nervous to let them drive.
(NOT) Like Riding a Bike
The results contradict their belief in the age-old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ - three quarters of drivers believed their confidence would increase in line with the post-test miles, and were concerned about deteriorating skills through a lack of driving. Interestingly, over half of new drivers were considering having more lessons to bolster their skills and self-belief, especially when only being able to afford old, less driver friendly vehicles (30%).
Key to Success
While more young people are passing their driving test, less are getting their own car and the valuable experience they need. But not having their own set of wheels needn’t be a barrier.
Veygo by Admiral offers flexible and affordable car sharing insurance so that anyone can borrow a friend or family member’s car, tailored to the drivers needs while protecting the owner’s insurance and No Claims Bonus.
Find out more about Veygo here
 Survey conducted by First Car magazine of 1393 drivers across the UK aged between 17 – 73
The DVSA has released the latest pass rates including tests conducted across a number of different test categories and locations.
We've taken a look to see which areas have the highest and lowest pass rate. Now let me start by making it clear, a low pass rate doesn't mean all the driving instructors in the area are rubbish or even that the examiners are really harsh. There are lot's of reasons that can influence these stats, for example rural areas with lower volume of tests tend to have a higher pass rate than those inner city. This could be down to experience driving vehicles off road before someone can legally take to the road. We haven't looked at the number of people that have taken their test without a driving instructor either.
That being said it makes for some interesting reading when looking at the overall pass rates for 2017/18 (Apr 17 - Mar 18).
Highest Driving Test Pass Rates in the UK
As usual some of the top numbers have come from Scotland with the top spot being bagged by Golspie on the East coast of Scotland. Incredibly from a population of just 1,650, 73 Practical tests we're conducted and 56 passes! That's a pass rate of 76.7%, people of Golspie we tip our hat to you! Let's look at some volume now and which area with over 2,000 tests came out on top? Well it's the beautiful market town that is Dorchester with 3,129 passes from 4,876 tests (64.2%). Other large areas worth a commendation here are Yeovil, Durham & Ipswich who scored 61.3%, 59.6% & 59.4% pass rates respectively.
Lowest Driving Test Pass Rates in the UK
Propping up the table we find Birmingham (the pavilion) test centre with a pass rate of 30.2% 303 from 1004 practical tests. London unsurprisingly has a large number of test centres, so it's not a huge shock to see a few represented in the bottom 5, with Erith (30.6%), Belvedere (30.6%), Wanstead (33.4%) all in. The other representative in here is Leeds with 2,469 passes from 7,413 tests (33.3%).
The full list of test centres can be found on the gov.uk website or click here
So what should you do if you live in one of these areas?
Well first of all don't worry. These stats should have no bearing on your individual success. Make sure you're working with your driving instructor to make sure you're ready for your test. Imagine an area where you and 1 other person are the only 2 people taking practical tests. If the other person takes 9 tests and fails them all but you pass first time, that makes that test centre's pass rate 10%, but yours is 100%! That's the key here focus on you!
In the car adverts it never rains, but sadly those of us who live in the real world have to put up with wind, rain and a whole array of adverse driving conditions. Once the heavens open you have to deal with all sorts of issues, such as reduced natural light, grip and visbility, and just slowing down isn’t enough.
Once the heavens open you have to deal with all sorts of issues, such as reduced natural light, grip and visbility, and just slowing down isn’t enough.
Here, with the help of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), are the things you need to do to stay alive next time you have to drive in wind and rain:
- Before you set off, set your heater controls – rain makes the windows mist up in seconds. You don’t want to be fiddling with controls when you should be concentrating on the road.
- Slow down. In the rain your stopping distance is at least doubled. Giving yourself more space helps you to avoid spray, especially when following a large vehicle.
- Keep your eyes on the road ahead and plan your driving so you can brake, accelerate and steer smoothly – harsh manoeuvres will unbalance your car.
- Strong winds can also unsettle your car and even change your direction of travel. Grip your steering wheel firmly and be aware of the effects of the weather on other road users.
- If you have cruise control, avoid using it on wet roads – it may create problems if you start to aquaplane.
- See and be seen. Put your lights on – as a rule of thumb, whenever you need to use your wipers you should also turn your headlights on, and before overtaking put your wipers on their fastest setting.
Training options for qualified drivers
Once you’ve ripped up your L-plates, you face a tougher time than ever on the roads. Every day in the UK, two under-25s are killed in car crashes, which is why it’s worth having extra training once you’ve got your licence.
The most popular post-test training is Pass Plus, from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) which commissions the standard test. You need to do it within a year of passing your test and the six modules it includes should help keep you out of trouble.
The most popular post-test training is Pass Plus, from the DVSA
Another course using regular DSA-approved instructors is the DIA Diamond Plus programme, aimed at those with a couple of years’ experience behind the wheel. It differs from the other courses by distancing itself from the term ‘advanced driving’ by concentrating on safer drivers with common sense, and an eye on economical driving.
Diamond Plus covers the six Pass Plus modules but combines elements of the hazard perception test, asking drivers to commentate on what they’re doing and advise the reasons behind their decisions. It’s an alternative approach that separates lucky manoeuvres from ones with real intelligence and planning.
Another innovative feature is the idea of having a ‘driving buddy’. The idea is that couples or mates book up together to make the coaching more fun. It’s like going to the gym; you can spur each other on, or even compete.
Another training programme prioritising safety over savings is the advanced driving test from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). At 90 minutes long, it’s longer than the DIA test but covers much the same material, with the addition of an informal Q&A session on car maintenance and the Highway Code.
The coaching required is much more comprehensive, with around three months of weekly meetings required to get the average young driver up to scratch. With the previous courses this would lead to a hefty bill, but this is where RoSPA differs. Your approved, qualified tutor is a previous trainee just like yourself and is supplied as a volunteer from one of the organisation’s local groups.
Another great option for your advanced driving course is through the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists), which is especially keen to attract younger drivers. By far the largest advanced driving group, this is another group that offers coaching through volunteers who have passed the course themselves.
You don’t have to sign up to a course, go out with any kind of tutor in your car, or even spend more than a tenner to continually improve your driving once you’ve passed your test. All you need is a decent source of information, so you’ll need to invest in a copy of the police driver’s bible, a book called Roadcraft.
For just a tenner or so, you’ll learn all sorts of great techniques that will make your driving smoother, safer and more comfortable
This tells you how to deal with any situation you’re likely to encounter behind the wheel, and for just a tenner or so, you’ll learn all sorts of great techniques that will make your driving smoother, safer and more comfortable. However, Roadcraft isn’t the only guide to better driving; there’s a whole stack of other titles that do a great job too.
All of these guide you through how to be a better driver once you’ve ripped up your L-plates, and unlike the structured courses already mentioned, you can learn at your own pace, at a time that suits you, and without anybody constantly assessing you.
There aren't many moments that match the one when you're told that you've passed your driving test. But your driving experience only starts when you tear up your L-plates, and many motorists who have spent years behind the wheel are still barely safe to drive.
New drivers have little experience to guide them through unfamiliar situations and those with more driving years under their belt are likely to have adopted all sorts of bad habits, so experience is no guide to ability.
Not convinced? To put this theory to the test we invited along three drivers with varying amounts of experience and put them behind the wheel of a Seat Leon FR with race ace Jason Plato. Our three willing volunteers had between 15 months and 11 years' driving experience, and the results were enlightening, to say the least...
Mark Swayland (recently passed)
We're not off to a good start here. The Seat has been left in gear and as a result Mark stalls it as he tries to start it. “A car should always be left in gear when the engine is switched off, which is why you should dip the clutch as you turn the key,” comments Jason. Mark is quick to retort: “Yeah, my instructor told me to leave the car in gear, but it's a piece of advice that I've always chosen to ignore.“ Cue raised eyebrows all round.
Mark may have been driving for a little over a year, but that's been long enough for him to get into bad habits. One of the worst is a tendency to grip the steering wheel with just his right hand, leaving the left to rest on his left leg.
Jason has a field day with this, commenting: “If you need to react suddenly to something unexpected, you're likely to lose control of the car without both hands on the wheel. Don't feel that you have to slavishly feed the wheel through both hands at all times, but at least use both hands to grip the wheel nice and securely.”
One area that Mark scored highly on was how he'd positioned himself behind the wheel, for the best visibility as well as the ability to use all the controls properly. Jason comments: “If you sit so that your wrist can rest on the top of the steering wheel, the seat is positioned correctly relative to the rest of the controls - which helps maximise comfort and car control.”
Grant Sawyer (six years behind the wheel)
Having held a licence for six years, it was no surprise that Grant turned out to be a smoother, more relaxed driver than Mark - but that didn't mean he was perfect...
More focused on driving and with a closer eye on using the controls properly, Grant's biggest failing was his positioning on the road. Says Jason: “Don't be afraid to straighten out the bends where it's safe to do so; it helps with stability and visibility. Also, steer round surface water rather than driving through it, this minimises the chances of aquaplaning. That's when the car skids because the tyres can't disperse the standing water fast enough, and once the car lets go you'll struggle to catch it.”
As with Mark, Jason asked Grant to estimate his stopping distance from 70mph. Whereas Mark got it pretty much spot on, Grant reckoned it would take the Seat around twice as long to stop as it really did; knowing what your car will do is essential to getting the best out of it.
Dan Joyce (drift king)
He can hold a car sideways for hundreds of yards at a time and has held a driving licence for over a decade, so Dirty Sanchez front man Dan Joyce must be pretty handy behind the wheel - or so you'd hope.
Unsurprisingly, Dan is the most confident of the bunch, but reassuringly, this isn't misplaced confidence because all those years driving haven't been in vain. Swift and safe through our course, it's clear Dan's pretty good at driving.
It ain't all sunshine and roses though because Jason reckons Dan has picked up some bad habits from all that drifting. As a result Dan is aggressive with the controls and has a habit of taking his hands off the wheel when a slide develops on the skid pad we're using.
But Dan claims that he's only chosen such a course of action because we're in a controlled environment; you'd have to hope that Dan wouldn't grab the hand brake and slew the car sideways if he was in his local town.
Dan's positioning could also do with a bit of adjustment. Jason points out: “Even if you're driving on a familiar road, it's essential that you position the car so you can see through the bends. That means staying towards the outside of the bend to get an earlier view, and by checking out the limit points you can also work out what speed is appropriate for the curve so you can also choose the right gear.”
If you're wondering what the hell he's talking about, it's simple: the limit point is how quickly the bend opens up as you negotiate it. A tight curve won't open up as you go round it, while a faster bend will open up as you approach it. It's something that can make you not only faster on the open road, but a lot safer too. Again it’s a skill you have to develop.
It doesn't matter how many miles a year you drive or how long you've had a licence, there's always new stuff to learn.
Something all of our guinea pigs needed to think more about was where they positioned their car on the road for the best balance of visibility and stability. What also proved fascinating was the exercise Jason set where Mark, Dan and Grant each had to guess how long it would take the Leon to stop if it was braked heavily at 70mph in pouring rain.
If you were asked the same question about your own car, would you know the answer? You'd probably be surprised at just how quickly the car can stop, and if you want to get the best out of it you need to know what it'll do.
You don't need a fast car or a test track to hone your skills. But you do need to think about a multitude of factors beyond what you covered in your driving test; check out the tips below for the basics, then make sure you put it all into practice, every time you get behind the wheel.
Plato's 5 hot tips
- Look ahead and be aware of what those around you are doing. Then you can guess what's about to occur and react before it's happened.
- Keep to the two-second rule, so you've got plenty of reaction and braking time if things go pear-shaped.
- Choose the correct speed and gear for any situation; it sounds obvious but few drivers manage it all the time.
- Think about your car's positioning on the road - it affects your visibility as well as the chances of getting hit by other drivers.
- Look after your car. Fail to maintain things like tyres or brakes properly and a crash is guaranteed at some point.
Before you start the driving part of your practical test, the examiner will ask you a ‘tell me’ question. You’ll have to explain how you’d undertake a simple task on your car, such as checking the tyre pressures. Fail to answer correctly and you’ll notch up a driver fault. The ‘show me’ question is asked while you are driving. You’ll need to demonstrate that you can carry out a basic safety task, such as demisting the windscreen. Neither question should trip you up so long as you prepare thoroughly.
Typical show me questions
Q: Can you show me how you’d set the rear demister?
A: While still driving carefully, push the demister button, then switch it off again.
Q: When it’s safe, can you show how you’d switch on your dipped headlights?
A: Turn the headlights on using the appropriate control. It’s likely to be a rotary control to the side of the steering wheel or a twist switch on the indicator stalk. Your instructor will have made sure you are familiar with the all the important controls in the car.
Typical tell me questions
Q: Where you would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how its tyre pressures should be checked?
A: Information will be found using the car manufacturer’s manual. The figures may also be inside the driver’s door, fuel filler flap or on the back of one of the sun visors. Check the tyre pressures by using a reliable pressure gauge when the tyres are cold. Don’t forget the spare and remember to refit the valve caps.
Q: How would you make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a crash?
A: The restraint should be adjusted so the rigid part of it is at least as high as the eye or top of the ears, and as close to the back of the head as is comfortable. Bear in mind that some restraints aren’t adjustable.
When you come to take your practical driving test, the day should contain no surprises.
You already know how the practical driving test is structured and you’ll have been given ample opportunity to prepare and practise every aspect. Your instructor will have suggested you apply for your practical test only if you’re definitely ready for it, so there’s no need to be nervous; if you are, check out our page on dealing with pre-test nerves.
Things need to start well before your test; you need to get a decent night’s sleep. That’s easier said than done if you’re apprehensive, but try to relax and ensure you’re not tired when you turn up for your test.
Start your test day with some breakfast, as it’ll help your brain to function and give you much-needed energy. Even if it’s just a slice of toast, it’ll help. When choosing your clothes for the day, wear something that makes you feel comfortable. Also dress reasonably smartly, to give a good impression – but don’t dress provocatively.
Get to the test centre in good time. You’re much better sitting at the test centre for ages than hanging around at home fretting – only to get to the centre late because of a traffic jam. If you get to the centre late, you’ll miss your slot and it’s game over. The examiner has a stack of other candidates to fit into their day; they can’t juggle their schedule to suit you.
Make sure you take your documentation with you. That means your theory test pass certificate (or confirmation) if you’re not exempt, and your photo card licence. Without these, you can't take your test.
For the duration of the test, make sure you listen intently to the examiner. Don’t be afraid to ask to hear instructions again, but if you ask for everything to be repeated three or four times, it’s going to get pretty tiresome.
The key is to remember that the examiner isn’t asking you to be superhuman – only to prove that you’re a safe, competent driver. To have got this far you must be ready for driving solo, or your instructor wouldn’t have told you that you’re ready to take your test – so you’re definitely up to it.
You’ve already proved that you know your Highway Code and that you can spot hazards developing, but it’s behind the wheel that really counts. This is your chance to show that you’re a safe driver.
As you can read in our practical driving test overview, the drive is the major focus of your practical test. Lasting for around 40 minutes, you’ve got to make it good! When you start your drive, the examiner will tell you to follow the road ahead unless he or any traffic signs say otherwise.
Throughout the drive, the examiner will give you instructions to direct you, but you won’t receive any guidance – so you’ll need to know your road signs and markings plus you’ll have to be aware of other road users.
Before you start, you'll have to read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres (or 20.5 metres if it's an old-style number plate). Then test will be over before it really starts if you can't read it.
Next you'll be asked a 'tell me' safety question. For example, you could need to open the bonnet and explain how you would check the oil level is correct. There's a second 'show me' safety question, but this won't be asked until you are driving.
The drive will kick off with the examiner asking you to start off when you’re ready. Don’t fluff it this early by failing to ensure that the handbrake is on and the gear lever in neutral, before starting the engine. If you’re driving an automatic, check that it’s in Park – it probably will be anyway, as many cars won’t allow you to withdraw the ignition key if Park hasn’t been selected.
As you drive along the examiner will be marking you and making notes on their sheet. Just because they are writing it doesn’t mean there’s a problem – they may be writing complimentary things if you’re really good.
The sorts of things your examiner is looking for include:
- Smooth use of the accelerator, brakes, steering and clutch
- Using an appropriate speed for the conditions
- Correct use of mirrors and signals
- How you cope with other road users
- How you deal with junctions, roundabouts and pedestrian crossings
At different points along your route, the examiner will ask you to stop. You’ll need to choose exactly where you stop, but there will always be a safe spot when you’re requested to pull over. These stops will include:
- A normal stop at the side of the road
- Pulling out from behind a parked vehicle
- A hill start
Following one of these stops you may be asked to perform an emergency stop, which means pulling the car up in a hurry, while retaining control. Whether or not you have to do the emergency stop, you’ll have to undertake one of the following manoeuvres:
- Parallel park at the side of the road
- Park in a bay – either driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out (the examiner will tell you which)
- Pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for two car lengths and rejoin traffic
The test will include 20 minutes of independent driving. You'll either have to follow directions from a sat nav or traffic signs to a location. Either way, the important thing isn't following the directions without taking a wrong turn, but that you show you can continue to drive carefully and safely.
With all of these elements covered, you’ll find yourself back at the driving test centre, at which point you’ll find out whether you’ve passed or failed. Fingers crossed!
The Practical Test - How it works
With your theory test pass in the bag, you can progress to the final stage in your quest for freedom and independence – your practical driving test. Get through this and you've got your full driving licence. As long as you've prepared correctly, there's nothing to be afraid of.
How long does the Practical Test take?
The practical driving test lasts around 40 minutes and it shouldn't contain anything to faze you. You'll need to take along your theory test pass certificate (or confirmation) if you're not exempt, and don't forget your photocard licence.
Fail to take these items along and you may be refused the opportunity to take your test – and you'll lose any money you've paid to do so. If you've lost your provisional driving licence, you'll have to apply for a replacement from the DVLA – which may mean rearranging your test.
How early should you arrive?
Clutching your various documents, get to the test centre in good time, as if you're late you'll lose your slot and you'll have to apply for another test on another date. To kick things off, your examiner will ask you to sign a declaration that your car is insured, and if you can't or won't sign the form, the test will be cancelled.
Can your Driving Instructor sit in on your Practical Test?
You'll be asked if you'd like anybody to accompany you on your test, then you'll go to your car. You should discuss this with your instructor before you arrive, but most people prefer not to.
What are the legal requirements for driving & the test?
Before getting in, you'll be asked to read a number plate. You need to be able to read a standard number plate from a distance of 20 metres. You'll get two chances to read the number plate correctly – fail both times and the examiner will give you a third chance, having measured with an official tape. Fail this third time and you've failed the test before you've even sat in the car.
What is the Show me tell me?
Next comes the tell me question, when you'll be asked to explain how you would perform a simple safety-related task, such as checking tyre pressures.
What does the on-road section of the Practical Test involve?
The examiner will check your car for damage and that your L-plates are displayed correctly, then you'll go out on your drive (we've covered this in more detail separately).
With the drive out of the way, you'll return to the test centre where you'll be told whether or not you've passed. You'll get a certificate either way. A pass certificate (DSA10) has to be signed and sent to the DVLA in Swansea, together with your provisional licence which you exchange for a full licence.
If you fail you'll be given a Statement of Failure form (DL25C) on which the examiner will have indicated why you failed your test. Along with this you'll also be given a form to apply for another test.
If you failed, the examiner will give you an opportunity to hear why. Your instructor can listen in too, or you can choose to listen in alone – of course your instructor may have been sat in the back of the car for the duration anyway.
Hopefully the examiner will give you the thumbs up, but don't get down if you fail first time. There's plenty of evidence that people who fail at first go on to be better drivers in the long run. Learn from your mistakes and come back stronger.
Can you take the test in your own car?
If you take the test in your own car it must be specifically insured for you to use for this purpose. The car you take your test in, it'll need to display L-plates. Your vehicle must also have a seatbelt and head restraint for the front passenger plus an interior mirror for the examiner's use,.
The pass rate for all driving tests is just 47% - with first-time pass rates even lower.There's a whole multitude of reasons why candidates fail their driving test; sometimes it's nerves, sometimes it's a lack of preparation.
There are lots of reasons why the practical driving test is failed, and (in order) these are the 10 most common:
- Observation at junctions – ineffective observation and judgement.
- Reverse parking – ineffective observation or lack of accuracy.
- Use of mirrors - not checking or not acting on the information.
- Moving away - poor observation or control when moving away.
- Use of signals - not given, not cancelled or misleading signals.
- Incorrect positioning – at roundabouts, lanes and bends.
- Reversing around a corner - ineffective observation or lack of accuracy.
- Lack of steering control - steering too early or leaving it too late.
- Turn round in road - ineffective observation or lack of accuracy.
- Inappropriate speed - travelling too slowly.
To make sure you don't fall foul of any of these things, make sure you check out our pages on preparing for the driving test and dealing with driving test nerves. With the right preparation you can ace your driving test - just have faith!
When you take your practical driving test, unless you drive perfectly, your examiner will award you a series of faults. Because pretty much nobody drives perfectly, it’s normal to rack up a few faults during your drive.
The key is to ensure you don’t do anything really daft, which means notching up only minor faults; there’s also the potential to accrue serious and dangerous faults, both of which mean automatic failure of the test, regardless of how well you drive otherwise.
If other road users are affected, a minor driving fault can turn into a serious one; you’ll be given a dangerous driving fault only if the examiner or another road user has been forced to take evasive action.
The three types of fault:
Minor: Not potentially dangerous, but if you make the same fault throughout your test it could become a serious fault. You can notch up 15 minors and still pass, but more than this means automatic failure.
Serious: Something that could potentially be dangerous, which means a definite test failure.
Dangerous: Something that puts yourself, the examiner, another person or property into a dangerous position. Unsurprisingly, if you rack up one of these, you’ll fail your test.
The most common driving test minors:
Starting the engine: If the car is in gear and you don’t press the clutch, it’s going to go horribly wrong – the same goes for not applying the handbrake properly so the car rolls forward or back.
Moving away: Not making proper checks before moving off is a minor fault which could become a serious one if you move away when it‘s unsafe to do so.
Emergency stop: You need to stop quickly while retaining control. Using both the clutch and footbrake is a common mistake – so don’t make it.
Reverse parking: You shouldn’t be too far from the kerb or parked at an angle to it after your reverse park. Also look out of the rear window while reversing and watch for pedestrians when performing this manoeuvre.
Controls: You’ll need to activate the wipers if it’s raining and the lights if it’s dark. If visibility is reduced (such as in heavy rain), you should also switch the lights on so you can be seen.
Awareness: Your examiner is expecting to see evidence that you’re aware of what’s going on around you at all times. That means knowing about other road users nearby, reacting to the signals of other drivers, correctly interpreting road markings and signs and using your indicators appropriately.
Good luck with your test! Why not enter our win a car competition, there's no cost and we're giving away a brilliant new Vauxhall Corsa EcoFlex 1.4i worth over £13,000! Enter here, its' the perfect way to celebrate passing your test.
For most of your practical driving test you’ll have to follow instructions from your examiner as you go along. However, for a 10-minute section you’ll have to drive independently, which means he or she will give you an instruction and you’ll then have to work things out for yourself for a while.
The independent driving section isn't meant to test your navigating skills - if you take a wrong turn or get lost it won't count against you. It's your chance to show that you can drive safely without constant instructions. However, if you get flustered and notch up any faults during this section, it will be marked as such.
At the start of the independent driving section you’ll be asked to pull over and your examiner will then tell you that you’ll have to drive independently until you’ve achieved your goal. There are two ways in which you might be asked to achieve that goal – but you won’t get any say in the decision-making process, and the examiner could choose a combination of the two. The two methods are:
- Via road signs and markings, so the examiner might say “For the next ten minutes please follow the road signs to the leisure centre”.
- Via a series of verbal directions, such as “drive along then take the second right, go straight ahead at the roundabout then take the first right”. If this method is chosen, the examiner will also show you a diagram before setting off.
If you forget any of the directions you’re allowed to ask the examiner to confirm them as you drive along. If any road signs are obscured, the examiner will help by saying something such as 'the sign's obscured here but you're meant to take the next right.
- You can’t use a sat-nav to help you get to your destination.
- If you’re dyslexic, and you explain this in advance, some extra help can be given.
- If you’re deaf, and you say so beforehand, you can take a sign language interpreter with you and to choose the method of independent driving (of the two listed above).
So, you’ve been slaving away behind the wheel for months, and your instructor finally tells you you’re ready to take your practical test. But where do you go from here?
The key thing to bear in mind is that you shouldn’t be thinking about taking your practical test until your instructor says you’re ready – and you can’t apply for it anyway, until you’ve already passed your theory test.
Assuming you can tick both of those boxes, you can book your practical test online, over the phone or through the post. If you’re doing an upgrade test (for a manual car if you’ve already got a licence to drive an automatic), the booking has to be made by phone, but you won’t need a theory test pass certificate in this instance.
Ensure you book only through the official website; third-party sites levy a charge and may not offer any real benefit in return.
When you make your booking you’ll need to have to hand:
- Your UK driving licence number.
- Your theory test pass certificate number.
- A credit or debit card to make the payment
If you’ve already managed to lose your theory test certificate, you can still get the details online – it’s free and available 24/7. You’ll need to have to hand your name, driving licence number and date of birth.
Take this route and you’ll get a test date/time straight away, along with a booking reference. You’ll need a credit or debit card handy and whoever makes the booking will need to be the card holder.
The number you need to call is 0300 200 1122, between 8am and 12pm (mid-day) Monday to Friday. There’s also a textphone/minicom number (0300 200 1144) if you have suitable kit to use it.
Before making your booking, you’ll need to ensure you’ve got the following info to hand:
- Your theory test pass certificate number
- Your driver number (on your licence)
- Driving school code number (if known, so your instructor isn’t double-booked)
- Your preferred date and any dates you can’t do
- Details of any disability or special circumstances
You can also book your practical test through the post, by filling out form DL26 (postal application for a practical driving test appointment).
Points to consider:
- You can find your nearest practical driving test centre on the Department for Transport website
- A list of current driving test fees are available on the gov.uk website.
- Waiting times can vary between two or three weeks to as much as three months
- To keep waiting times down, tests are sometimes available from 8am, in the evenings (during the summer) and at weekends – but not everywhere. You’ll pay more to take your test at the weekend though.
Sometimes you take a wrong turn or you simply need to retrace your steps, and instead of driving for miles looking for somewhere to turn round (or you might be in a cul de sac), the easiest way is to turn round in the road.
As with all driving test manoeuvres, your examiner will be looking for you to execute this one smoothly, safely and slowly, remaining in control at all times and without touching the kerbs. That means being aware at all times of what’s going on around you, things helped by keeping your speed to a minimum.
Choose somewhere with good visibility, no hazards in the road or on the pavement and where there’s plenty of room to make the turn
How it’s done
Your examiner will ask you to pull over where it’s safe, so you can turn in the road. You’ll have a good idea of where to make your turn, because you’ll already be in the street where you’re going to do it. However, you’ll be left to work out the exact point at which you’re going to turn round.
Choose somewhere with good visibility, no hazards in the road or on the pavement and where there’s plenty of room to make the turn – the wider the road (within reason) the easier it is. Don’t turn too near any junctions, parked cars or driveways, in case another road user suddenly appears.
Start by pulling in to the left, having signalled if necessary. Once you’ve stopped, cancel your indicator and check all round to see if it’s clear. Then, having checked your blind spots with over-the-shoulder checks, engage first gear and keeping your speed to a minimum by slipping the clutch if necessary, turn the steering wheel fully to the right. The idea is to get the car completely across the road – or even slightly pointing the opposite way – as you drive up to the opposite kerb.
Just before you get to the kerb, turn the steering wheel fully to the left – by keeping your speed right down, you’ll have plenty of time to change the way your wheels are pointing, so you’re not rushing. As you get close to the kerb, engage the clutch, brake to a halt then apply the handbrake.
Next, select reverse gear, find the clutch biting point and release the handbrake to start reversing towards the kerb at which you started, once you’ve made sure that it’s still clear all around. Make sure the steering wheel is turned fully to the left during this part of the manoeuvre, but as you get close to the original kerb, turn the steering wheel to the right.
As you approach the kerb, stop, apply the handbrake and select first gear. Having checked that all around is still clear and safe, set off in the opposite direction to when you started then pull in to the left and stop so the examiner can assess your manoeuvre. Stop, apply the handbrake and select neutral, then await further instructions from the examiner.
Driving forwards is easy; reversing is more difficult as it feels unnatural. But it’s something you have to get used to as a driver, and on your test you may well be asked to reverse round a corner to show that you can control a car going backwards.
As with any manoeuvre on your test, the examiner will be making sure you can position your car safely while remaining aware of what’s going on around you. At all times you’ll have to drive slowly, smoothly and with control; you’ll also have to remain close to the kerb without hitting it.
The examiner will be making sure you can position your car safely while remaining aware of what’s going on around you.
How it’s done
The chances are that you’ll be asked to reverse to the left rather than the right, in which case you’ll need to pull in to the left-hand side of the road, just before the junction into which you’ll reverse.
Having signalled that you’re pulling in (taking care not to confuse anyone into thinking you’re turning into the road rather than stopping just before it), you’ll need to cancel your indicator before then moving just past the junction, making sure that as you drive past the junction you look down the road you’re about to reverse into, to ensure there’s no oncoming traffic or obstructions in the road. Having stopped about half a metre from the kerb and around two car lengths past the junction, cancel your indicator and prepare to reverse.
So it’s easier to see behind you can unclip your seatbelt, then check that all around is clear before you select reverse gear and start to drive backwards, ensuring you don’t use your indicators at all. Watching through the back window, once the kerb comes into view through the side window turn the steering wheel to the left so the car follows the kerb line.
By keeping your speed down you’ll be able to gauge how much you need to turn the wheel; as the front of the car moves round, make sure you remain aware of what’s going on around you, such as pedestrians or cars in the road you’re leaving as well as the one you’re driving into. Once you’ve turned the corner, straighten up the steering wheel and ensure the car is running parallel to the kerb, using your passenger-side mirror if necessary.
Continue to monitor around the car, watching for other road users; if someone comes round the corner and you don’t notice, you’ll fail your test. If someone is coming, stop, let them pass then continue on your way once they’ve gone.
Stop as close to the kerb as you can manage, engage your handbrake and select neutral. Put your seatbelt back on then wait for the examiner’s next instruction. Don’t worry if you’re not really close to the kerb or parallel with it; your examnier is looking for competence rather than perfection.
What if traffic approaches from behind?
Should a vehicle drive towards you on the road you’re reversing round, and let it continue on its journey. Once it has passed you, carry on with your manoeuvre. If the vehicle stops behind you, you’re causing an obstruction so you’ll have to stop and move back to where you began your manoeuvre, just round the corner.
Should a vehicle drive up close behind you after you’ve turned the corner, but before you’ve been told you’ve gone far enough, wait to see if the examiner says you’ve gone far enough for him to decide whether or not the manoeuvre is complete. If he stays quiet, pull forward round the corner and start again.
If you’re going to take advantage of on-street parking spaces you’ll need to get the hang of parallel parking, which is why you might be asked to demonstrate your abilities during your test.
Parallel parking is pretty straightforward, but some drivers get flustered because of passing traffic, the worry of scraping one of the cars you’re parking between, or because of that nasty kerb that’s just sitting there waiting to jump out at you.
However, whereas in the real world you might have to slot into a space that’s not much bigger than your car, on your test your examiner is more likely to ask you to drive into a space that’s about twice the size of your car, so you should have plenty of room for manoeuvre.
Bearing this in mind, the examiner will be making sure that you remain aware at all times of other road users – especially passing traffic as the nose of your car swings out. You’ll also be expected to get close to the kerb without hitting it – and obviously you won’t score too highly if you hit either of the car’s you’re parking between.
Your examiner islikely to ask you to drive into a space that’s about twice the size of your car
How it’s done
Stop parallel to, level with and not more than one metre away from the car you’re going to park behind. Select reverse gear, make sure it’s okay to start reversing then drive slowly backwards, watching for the corner of the other car appearing in your side window.
When you can see the rear corner of the other car through your side window, rotate your steering wheel to the left one full turn, then check all round to ensure there are no other cars or road users that have appeared since you began your manoeuvre. If it's safe, continue reversing until the nose of your car is level with the back of the car you’re parking behind.
Next turn the steering wheel fully to the right, watching to make sure that you clear the car you’re parking behind. As you turn the steering wheel the front of your car will swing in towards the kerb.
Because at this point you’ll be close to the kerb and the car in front, you need to keep your speed down as you start to straighten out the steering wheel, so the front of your car doesn’t swing in too far. Check your distance from the kerb and the car in front; the easiest way of checking your distance from the kerb may be by dipping your passenger side mirror.
Once you’re in the space you can move back and forth to line things up correctly, but don’t do this endlessly or the examiner will mark you down. Basically, as long as you’re not stuck out into the road and you’re not up the kerb, you should be fine.
The emergency stop has long been a part of the driving test; at one time, every candidate had to perform one. But since 1999 this has dropped to just one in three – chosen at random, so you won’t know in advance whether or not you’ll have to pull up in a hurry.
The idea of the emergency stop is that you’re demonstrating how fast your reaction times are, so you can pull up your car in the shortest possible distance while retaining control and not causing any danger to yourself or other road users. Sounds easy, but if you’re tired, not focused or nursing a sore head from a big night out you’ll make an idiot of yourself – or possibly worse.
When your examiner asks you to stop he’ll make sure it’s safe and legal and you’ll need to come to a halt progressively.
How it works
Throughout your test your examiner will ask you to stop in various places to speak to you, or to prepare you to make a manoeuvre. When he asks you to stop he’ll make sure it’s safe and legal and you’ll need to come to a halt progressively.
At some point though, he may ask you to stop as though there’s an emergency. He won’t just bark an instruction at you with a hint of panic in his voice though; he’ll give you plenty of notice that at some point soon, he’ll be asking you to stop as though there’s an emergency.
Your examiner will make it clear what signal he’ll give for you to stop quickly; it’s likely to be a raised right hand with an audible instruction to stop. He won’t try to catch you out, so he’ll have already made sure there’s nobody sitting inches from your back bumper, and you won’t be asked to perform the task in a busy high street.
Once you know this task is coming you might feel a bit nervous, but having been given a warning, just make sure you remain aware of what’s going on around you so you’re conident that your emergency stop won’t spook anybody who may be near.
Once the signal has been given, take your right foot off the accelerator and brake sharply, but without going crazy. The car’s anti-lock technology will prevent any skids, but you don’t want to be standing on the middle pedal with your entire body weight.
Throughout the process, hold the steering wheel with both hands so you don’t lose control of the car, and don’t press the clutch until you’ve come almost to a stop.
Once you’ve stopped, with the clutch and brake pedals depressed apply the handbrake and move the gear lever into neutral. When the examiner tells you to, drive on having checked your mirrors and looked over your shoulder before pulling out.
What if I skid?
In the unlikely event that your car doesn’t have anti-lock brakes (they’ve been mandatory on all new cars sold in the EU since 2007, but have been common since long before then), you’ll need to make sure your car doesn’t skid.
In the dry you should be able to brake very sharply without the wheels locking up leading to a loss of steering control. In the wet though, it’s very easy to skid, especially if the road surface is slippery.
If the car does start to skid, just ease off the brake a bit until you regain traction, so you can get back your steering control. Whatever you do, don’t just keep your brake pedal planted to the floor, so you skid to a halt. That will show you’ve panicked, which won’t go down too well…