L is for... Learning to drive!
Let's start from the beginning! We're going to look at every aspect of learning to drive, from finding the right instructor for you, to lesson prices and why we charge what we do, the law surrounding learning to drive, what the DVSA and the government say about learning to drive, taking the theory and practical tests, what happens in your lessons, and what happens when you pass your driving test!
How do I find the right instructor?
It's important that you find the right instructor for YOU!
You can find instructors by having a look on social media, searching on Google, and even asking who your friends & family learnt with - they'll have first hand experience of different driving instructors. Though it's important to note that different students have different needs - therefore different driving instructors may suit different students.
We often get students asking if they can pay for 10 hours up front - we would ALWAYS recommend that you do a normal 1 or 2 hour lesson to begin with, to see how you get on with your instructor. We wouldn't want you to pay up front for lessons and then decide that you're not best suited to that instructor. 'Try before you buy'!
Instructors should be friendly, reliable, calm, and have you in their best interests. Instructors should not be shouting, getting annoyed, hitting/slapping you, or making you feel uncomfortable.
Check that your instructor is qualified! We did a blog recently about instructors, including the qualifications needed, and how you can tell if they're qualified. You can see the blog HERE, and we talk about pink/green badges in that blog. Look for an instructor's pink or green badge. If they are licensed by the DVSA, they will have a pink or green badge and will have no issue showing you their badge. If they cannot show you their badge without good reason, I would be incredibly wary that this is a fake driving instructor.
Also consider if your instructor can;
- Support you with your theory test or if they offer theory test revision resources
- Offer mock tests with other instructors (to see how you cope in a different situation, under more pressure, and with a different person sat next to you)
- Offer you refresher lessons once you've passed
- Offer any block booking discounts or special offers
- Be flexible and suit your availability - do your work shifts or childcare vary?
- Offer regular lessons to suit you - are you looking for 3 lessons per week? 1 lesson per fortnight? Check your instructor has the space for you
We're pleased to say all of our DKM Driving instructors offer the above :)
Ok... so you've found an instructor! How do I start learning to drive?
In simple steps;
1. You need a provisional licence
2. You can start taking driving lessons
3. Pass your theory test
4. Pass your practical test
We could write for ageees about 'how to start learning to drive'... so we did!
How many hours do I need?
What an interesting question! And unfortunately it's one that we don't have an answer for...
It could depend on a lot of things;
- How regular your lessons are - if you have lessons once every 2 months, you won't be keeping your skills refreshed, up to date, and in the fore front of your mind. Regular weekly, or sometimes fortnightly lessons, are best. Some students even prefer having 3 or 4 lessons per week because they know they need more practise/more regular lessons to keep on top of their skills and progress. Having long breaks between lessons can mean your progress may become 'rusty'
- Length of your lessons - Some students find 1 hour lessons perfectly manageable and prefer this as it doesn't overwhelm them, or make them tired, therefore they make more progress in a 1 hour lesson. Some students prefer 2 hour lessons, as they feel they can achieve more during that time. The length of your lesson is totally your choice
- Whether you get on with your instructor - If you get on well together and have fun, you'll be more likely to enjoy lessons, and more likely to learn and take things on board
- Whether you are able to practise privately - If you have access to mums/dads/partners/friends car, getting private practise can be so valuable. This will give you experience of driving different cars, driving in different situations, and more 'behind the wheel' experience. If you are unable to practise privately for whatever reason, you can always 'observe' whoever is driving - watch how they drive, think about the gears you'd use and when you'd check your mirrors, ask the person about their driving and what they're doing, and see if you can pick up good or bad habits! If you can see their faults - it shows that you know what you need to be doing yourself!
Being able to get private practise can be incredibly useful, especially if done in the right way. We recently came up with some good tips and posted them on our Facebook page - they'd be useful here too!
- Make sure the insurance is sorted
You can get learner insurance from places like Marmalade or Collingwood. It's illegal to drive without insurance. You must legally have L plates on the front and rear of your vehicle, and you must have tax, an MOT, and the vehicle must be in a roadworthy condition.
If you use the discount code '778440' with Marmalade, or '330048' with Collingwood, you will be able to get discounts for your insurance
- Make sure your supervising driver is legal
Must be over 21 years old
Must have held their driving licence for more than 3 years
Must follow all the rules as if they were driving, for example, not drinking alcohol or taking drugs, not using their mobile phone, not being distracted etc. They must be ready to take control if you need help or support
- Talk to your driving instructor
Your driving instructor is the best person to be able to advise you on what sort of things you could cover during your private practise. They will know your strengths and weaknesses, and will be able to suggest things which will challenge those weaknesses, without overwhelming you (or your supervising driver!)
- Tell your supervising driver what you already know
Make sure your supervising driver is aware of what you can and can't do. This will help them to be able to plan where to take you
- Start slowly
An empty car park or quiet residential road is probably the best place to begin. You'll want time to adjust to the new car, and your supervising driver (especially if it's your parents in their brand new car) will want to see your skills and feel comfortable before taking you to busier situations. Your supervising driver could also sit in a couple of driving lessons so they can see what you're capable of
- Keep a record of what you've covered
You could message your instructor each time you've been out and practised different or new things. Your instructor would love to hear about your private practise! If you decide not to message your instructor, be ready to tell your instructor on your next lesson what you've covered during private practise. They'd love to hear about it, and this will help them plan and structure your next few lessons
- Don't let your supervising driver try to teach you new skills
They aren't trained to do this (unless they're another instructor!), and this could cause you to become stressed and confused. Stick to what you know and have learnt from your driving instructor - focus on perfecting those skills, rather than trying to learn new things
- Don't let your supervising driver shout at you
Ask your supervising driver to stay calm with you. If they are shouting and getting stressed, this will not help you. You will feel more confident and calmer if they stay calm and supportive. You can always get your supervising driver to sit in a couple of your driving lessons to see how your driving instructor communicates with you
Why do driving lessons cost so much?!
I'm going to list just some of the expenses that driving instructors have to cover, and approximate costs for each;
- Car payments - Approx £300 per month
- Insurance - Approx £80 per month (specialist insurance)
- Fuel - Approx £400 per month
- Car tax - Approx £7 per month
- Car wear and tear - Approx £55 per damaged or worn down tyre. Approx £40 for tracking and wheel alignment from students hitting the kerb - and the instructor does not charge you for tyres which are damaged when you hit the kerb! Approx £200 for 4 new brake pads & discs, which are changed more often than your average car due to the additional mileage that driving instructors do
- Car maintenance - Approx £150 for a service (every 3-4 months). Approx £15 for engine oil. Approx £14 per month for car cleaning.
- Instructor badge/licence - £75 per year. (The cost of training to become an instructor initially is approx £2500).
- Tax & National Insurance - Approx £200 per month (as driving instructors are self employed they have to pay their own tax & national insurance to HMRC)
- Accidents & collisions - cost varies, but instructors will have to pay their excess on their insurance, plus lose time off work if they are injured or their car is off the road for repairs. Their insurance will also be increased at the next renewal
- Advertising - Approx £50 per month. Without advertising, we'd have no students!
By my (questionable) maths, I work out that our work expenses are roughly £1140 per month (based on the above, and not including accident/collision costs). This is before we factor in our own bills such as house (rent/mortgage), council tax, gas, electric, water, internet, food & shopping, etc. And that's before we even think about clothes, haircuts, luxuries, holidays (either a weekend away or a week abroad)!
This also doesn't taken into account the fact that we have trained hard, and continue to train to be the best we can. It doesn't take into account our time, our skills & knowledge that we pass on to you, nor the fact that our job as a driving instructor can be risky and dangerous! Imagine sitting next to someone in a car, who can't drive, and has the potential to kill you... Our knowledge, skills, quick thinking, reactions, dual controls, and experience means that we keep you as safe as we can.
Because we're self employed, we don't get holiday pay, nor sick pay. Therefore if we want to take a holiday, or are unexpectedly ill, we don't get paid! Yet we still have our bills/rent/mortgage, car payments & insurance, fuel, car maintenance, HMRC tax, and instructor's licence etc to pay for.
Also, if a student cancels their lesson with less than 24 hours notice and we're unable to refill that slot, we would lose more money and would not get paid otherwise. This is why we have a 24 hour cancellation notice period.
We're also teaching you a skill for life! We know how valuable being able to drive is, and we are teaching you not only to be able to pass your driving test, but also to be a safe driver. We train hard to be the best, so we can give you the best quality lessons possible so you can be a safe and responsible driver now and for the rest of your life.
Lets also look at other types of lessons and their costs;
- Violin lessons - £70 per hour
- Tennis lessons - £50 per hour
- Back massage - £50 per hour
- Horse riding lessons - £60 per hour
We hope this explains in a little more detail why driving lessons are 'expensive'.
What's the driving instructor's & the student's role?
- Keeping you, us, the public and property safe
- To provide quality, structured and progressive lessons
- To be committed to your learning, to be friendly, supportive and reliable
- To support you with your theory test
- To support you with your practical test
- To support you with real life driving - to practise things like refuelling, drive thrus, multi storey car parks, your 'real life' routes such as college to work, work to home etc within your lessons
- Responsible for our safety
- Reporting health changes to your instructor and DVLA
- Reporting licence changes, points & disqualifications to your instructor and DVLA
- Not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Being responsible, reliable, and committed
What happens if you’re caught breaking the law on a driving lesson
In a simple answer – any points or fines must go to the person who was driving at the time. Usually, the police force will send a letter to the owner of the car – usually your instructor. Your instructor is notified of the offence and is asked to give the details of the driver at the time of the offence. If your instructor fails to tell the police who was driving or gives false information, your instructor can be fined and even be disqualified themselves.
Your instructor will always do the best they can to prevent you breaking any laws or traffic rules and regulations. We may use things like speed limiters, verbally pointing out speed limit signs, using dual controls to prevent you from crossing red lights etc – however we can only do so much, and ultimately the responsibility falls directly onto the student as the driver – no matter how many lessons or experience they may have.
Let’s look at some of the things that could happen on a lesson or test
The following serious offences could result in fines, points, disqualifications and even imprisonment;
- Death by dangerous/careless driving
- Driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs
- Driving without insurance (please be assured all of our DKM Driving instructors have the appropriate insurance)
- Driving without a valid licence (for example, it’s expired, you shouldn’t be driving due to medical conditions, you’ve been disqualified, etc)
Other offences which could result in fines & points;
- Driving whilst using a mobile phone (a judge could order a disqualification too)
- Speeding (a judge could order a disqualification too)
- Not stopping at red lights
- Not wearing your seat belt
- Entering bus lanes/other restricted areas
Taking your theory and practical tests
DKM Driving have a free theory test revision resource – you can sign up HERE for free.
Your instructor is always more than happy to support you with your theory test – please ask them how they can support you. Our blog from last week about ‘Knowledge’ may also be worth a good read! You can find that HERE.
Your instructor will continue your practical lessons with you, and you may be practising privately with family or friends – this will help you prepare for your practical test, and your instructor will talk to you and discuss when you are ready to take your test.
What happens if you fail your practical driving test
Don’t give up. Take all the time you need with your instructor to debrief and understand what happened on your test. Your instructor will have likely sat in on your test, or listened to the examiners debrief after the test, so they will be able to help you understand what happened and why. If your instructor has dash cams, they may be able to find the parts where you failed, so you can see what happened.
Make a plan with your instructor before you leave the car. You may decide to book another test as soon as you can, and book more lessons with your instructor to work on your skills. You may decide to take a break from driving, or you may be busy with exams at college or university.
You may find it beneficial to do a mock test with someone other than your instructor – ask your instructor if they have any colleagues who would be able to do a mock test with you. This would help your confidence and help you learn how to deal with your nerves on a test, and also identify any weaknesses or faults that need to be sorted before your next test. This is something that all of our DKM Driving instructors offer.
What happens when you pass your practical driving test
What a great feeling! You may already have a car that you’ve been using in private practise, or you may have a car waiting for you to start driving once you pass. You may buy a car soon after you pass, or you may use a family member’s car to start with. Whatever you choose – any driving experience once you pass is good.
If you don’t have a car and aren’t able to drive once you pass, there’s no reason why you can’t carry on having a few lessons with your instructor once you pass to keep up your skill and to carry on gaining experience. Or, you may have started driving your own car and be struggling with certain things – your instructor would be more than happy to do a couple of lessons in your own car to help you. Just because you’ve passed your test, it doesn’t mean you can’t have lessons with your instructor anymore! :)
You don’t have to wait for your full licence to come through the post – your test pass certificate is your proof of being allowed to drive, therefore you can drive the same day as you pass. If the examiner sent your provisional licence off to be exchanged to a full licence, you’ll receive it within 2-3 weeks.
You must ensure that your car has the appropriate insurance (if you had learner insurance before, this must be changed to full licence holder insurance before you drive your car). Your car must also be taxed, and have an MOT if it’s over 3 years old. It must also be roadworthy and legal – such as having a good amount of tread depth on your tyres etc.
Using P plates is a personal choice, and they aren’t compulsory. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide whether to use them or not;
- Makes other drivers aware that you’ve not long passed your test
- Sometimes makes other drivers be more patient if you took slightly longer to go at a roundabout, or if you stalled at a junction
- They’re not compulsory
- You can take them off at any time
- Sometimes makes other drivers see you as someone they just want to ‘get past’
- Sometimes makes other drivers more impatient around you
New Drivers Act
It’s important to be aware that under the New Drivers Act, if you receive 6 or more points in the first 2 years of passing your test, your licence will be revoked. This means it will be taken away from you, you’ll be unable to drive, and you’ll have to retake your theory and practical test again.
Speeding offences where you haven’t gone too far over the speed limit will usually incur 3 points and £100 fine – therefore if you got caught speeding twice in the first 2 years, you’ll lose your licence.
Getting caught on your mobile phone whilst driving will incur 6 points and £200 fine – therefore if you do this once in the first 2 years, you’ll lose your licence.
The DVSA have published information online about learning to drive, which you can find HERE.
We hope this information helps!
Next week we’re looking at… Manoeuvres!