Everything a new driver needs to know
Learning to drive is one of the most significant moments in your life; it isn’t just about being able to cart your friends around town, it is the first stage in your quest for independence.
But, it is one of the most confusing and challenging things you are ever going to do. The dozens of roads signs you memorise for your theory test, the importance of checking your washer fluids and buying your first car can all add up to a very stressful experience for you as a new driver, and for the parents of one.
So here at Foray Motor Group, we have compiled a definitive guide covering the most important stages you take before you get onto the road.
Applying for your provisional licence
There are two ways for you to apply for your provisional driving licence.
The first and quickest is by going online at GOV.UK where you will need some proof of identity like your passport, your address details for the last three years and a debit or credit card.
Another way is by going to a post office and filling out a D1 form.
Before applying you must:
- Be no younger than 15 years and 9 months old
- Be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away
- Provide proof of identity
- Have your National Insurance number
The current price of a provisional licence is £34 if you pay online via your card, or £43 if you apply via post.
The theory test
When booking your test – you must have a provisional driving licence before you can book your theory.
From your 17th birthday, you are able to take the test. But you can take it after your 16th birthday if you have applied for the enhanced rate of mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
You must take the theory test before getting your full car driving licence, even if you have a moped or motorcycle licence.
The test is made up of two parts; the multiple-choice questions, and the hazard perception.
The cost of a theory test is £23, which is not refundable if you fail.
The multiple – choice questions
This section is made up of 50 questions, and you have 57 minutes to answer.
Sat at a computer, a question will pop up with several possible answers. There may be case studies, where you will be shown a short story about a real life scenario that you could come across when driving, and then have to answer five questions on it.
If you do not know the answer, you can ‘flag’ the question and return to it later. If you want to change your answers, you can go back to any question.
You do not have to use all of the 57 minutes, you are finished when you answer all of the questions. You can then take a three minute break before the hazard perception section.
The Hazard perception test
You will be shown a video on how the test works before the start of the test. You will then watch 14 video clips, which will include everyday road scenes all with at least one ‘developing hazard’, although one clip will have two.
Don’t know what a ‘developing hazard’ is?
An example of a developing hazard is something that may cause you to take action by either changing speed or direction. For example, if you are coming up to a bus stop where a bus is parked it may not necessarily initially be a hazard. However, when the bus indicates and starts to pull out, it becomes a developing hazard.
Here are the types of developing hazards you can come across:
- Traffic controllers and crossings
- Pedestrians: Children & young people, the elderly and infirm, adults
- Motorcyclists and cyclists
- Animals and horse riders
- Vehicles: moving off, pulling up, meeting, emerging, turning, reversing and U-turns, large vehicles, flashing lights
For a high score on this part of the test, you must click the mouse as soon as you see the hazard developing, there is a maximum of five points for each developing hazard.
To pass, you will need: Multiple-choice questions: 43 out of 50 available
Hazard perception: 44 out of 75 available
You will get your results at the test centre. If you fail, you will be told what section you didn’t score enough points on in preparation for further practice. But you can take your test as close as three working days later.
If you pass, you will be given a pass certificate number at your test centre, which you must use when booking and taking your driving test. This certificate number is valid for two years, in which time you must pass your driving test, otherwise you will have to retake your theory.
With practical driving tests you don’t need to do a theory for:
- Upgrading from automatic to manual
- Car and trailer test
- Tractor test
- Large lorry test, only if you have a medium lorry licence
- Large bus, only if you have a medium bus licence
- Lorry and trailer test
- Progressing through the motorcycle categories
For anyone with a disability, health condition or reading difficulties
We advise you to let your local test centre know if you suffer from a disability, a health condition or have difficulty reading.
If you have reading difficulties, you can have an English or Welsh speaking voiceover. This will allow you to hear the theory test instructions and questions through a pair of headphones. You will also be able to listen back to questions and the multiple choice answers as many times as you need.
If necessary, you can request more time for the multiple-choice questions. You will be required to send proof from a teacher or educational professional, a medical professional or an independent person who knows about your difficulty, like your employer.
Booking your driving test
If you are booking a practical driving test for a motorcycle (Category A) or a car (Category B) the most convenient way to book your test is online.
You can book by phone or in person, by visiting your local test centre; sometimes this is the same building as your theory test. Your test centre will be in the town or area that you are learning to drive, for example, if you learn in Taunton you can go to the test centre at Acres Hill Business Park.
Test centres tend to be open between 8.45am - 4.00pm from Monday to Friday.
Driving tests are generally available between 8.50am and 3.50pm on Monday to Friday through May to September. Though depending on resources available to the centre, you can book your tests on a Saturday or evenings at a higher rate.
Your driving test will cost £62, or £75 if you are planning to take it at the weekend or bank holidays. Again like your theory, if you fail it is not refundable.
You can book your driving test here.
What can you expect in your driving test?
When the big day arrives, relax, your instructor will take you on a calm drive before the test and insure that you know the basics. If you aren’t ready for the practical test, you wouldn’t be there waiting for it, you would still be learning.
Across the world, each country has their own take on the driving test, from not actually needing a test in Mexico, to taking an additional aptitude test in Japan.
Your driving test will be broken down into five sections:
- Eyesight check: You will be asked to read a number plate from either 20 metres away, or 20.5 metres for an old-style number plate
- Vehicle safety questions: Known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions. You will have to answer two safety questions. Typical questions can be, ‘Show me how you would check the parking break for excessive wear; making sure you keep safe control of the vehicle?’
- Driving ability: During your test, you will not drive on a motorway. Your instructor will give you directions to follow. At some point, you will be asked to pull over at the side of the road, these can include hill starts and pulling out from behind a parked vehicle
- Reversing your vehicle: You will be asked to either reverse around a corner, reverse park into a bay or parallel park, or produce a turn in the road.
- Independent driving: For around 10 minutes, you will be expected to drive independently. Your instructor will ask you to drive to a particular location, so listen for verbal directions and look out for traffic signs.
Your test will last around 40 minutes, depending on circumstances like traffic or weather.
To be given a ‘fault’, you will have to have either made a ‘dangerous fault’ by endangering you, the examiner or public and property. A ‘serious fault’, which is something potentially dangerous or a ‘driving fault’ which isn’t necessarily dangerous, but if repeated could become a serious fault.
To pass, you must not get any more than 15 driving faults, or ‘minors’ and have no serious or dangerous faults, ‘majors.’
If you pass you will be given a certificate of your driving licence, and be told how many minors you had. Your instructor will ask if you want your full licence to be sent to you, you will have to give them your provisional if you do.
You can start driving immediately after you pass, but keep your certificate with you in the car. Your licence should arrive within three weeks, but if it hasn’t, contact the DVLA. If you don’t want your licence immediately, you have two years to claim it, before you have to retake your test.
Sarah Hart is an approved Grade 5 driving instructor, teaching the people of Salisbury how to drive. Sarah has kindly offered her opinion on driving schools, and learning how to drive.
“An ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) has the professional driving skills to coach and train the pupil in a way that best suits that individual, adapting teaching styles to reflect the needs and abilities of the pupil. An ADI will use coaching and mentoring techniques to help develop skills needed to become a safe, competent and confident driver.”
Picking a driving instructor is something that does take quite a bit of thought. You need to feel relaxed and comfortable enough around them so that when you make a mistake, you can both deal with it and move on in your own ways.
Everyone will remember the instructor who helped them to pass, they will have given you little golden nuggets of information, or customised advice to help you with something that you are struggling with.
Sarah Hart, adds, “An ADI knows exactly what standard an individual needs to achieve to pass their test - although this is low on my list of priorities, as it is far more important to ensure pupils develop a "skill for life" - passing the test is just part of the journey - becoming a competent and safe driver is the ultimate goal.”
You can go about your lessons in two ways: Conventional lessons, and intensive lessons.
Doing conventional lessons may go on for a few months, which is no problem, it keeps things fresh and will keep you relaxed during the process. You are not in any rush to pass, though your parents’ wallets may say otherwise.
Whereas, intensive driving lessons get the process done in a shorter amount of time. However, your teacher doesn’t tell you to start revising a week before the test.
That said, they always cover what you need to know and give you about a week of solid driving, when the breaks between conventional lessons can be long which can lead you to thinking you’re not actually progressing.
If you are unsure which one you think best suits you, you can always ask for an assessment lesson which will allow you to get to know the instructor and see if the course is suited to you.
Lessons with your parents
Learning to drive is a pretty stressful, intense experience for all parties. It can also be pretty expensive, which leads people to think that learning with their parents is a good idea.
But it is unlikely that your parent is a driving instructor and though they’d like to think so, they probably don’t actually know what they’re doing.
“The benefits of taking professional instruction are many. The instructors’ car is fitted with dual controls which will help keep both the pupil and instructor safe, especially in the first few hours of learning.” Sarah Hart added.
You will probably have to be driving either the dented, rusting hand-me-down car that has already been taken through its paces by your older siblings with an impossibly awkward clutch and dodgy brakes. Whereas with a driving school or instructor, you will be in a relatively new, rust and dent-free car.
Another thing an instructors’ car has that your family car doesn’t is extra pedals. At the feet on the passenger’s side is an extra clutch and brake.
There will come a time in one of your lessons when doing a manoeuvre for instance, the instructor may use his extra brake to stop you from rolling. Your instructor may not tell you that you were doing it right away, they may wait until you have stopped next and tell you calmly.
Imagine this situation when in a car with your parents, with no extra brake. You may panic and make a mistake, or worse, begin a shouting match with them in the middle of the lesson.
The worst thing about bad habits is that you don’t realise you are doing them. Biting your nails, cracking your fingers, not indicating, speeding.
If you learn from your parents, you can subconsciously develop their own bad habits. This doesn’t just need to be in a lesson, this can come from any scenario where you have been driven somewhere by them. If they do it frequently enough, you will think it is ok, or that this is how you do it. Driving instructors spot these problems and help filter them out.
Buying your first car
Getting your first car is a big deal. On one side you want it to reflect yourself and your personality, on the other, it needs to be affordable and pass the parent test.
Everybody remembers their first car, and it isn’t always for a good reason. It is the sentimental attachment you gain, the bond you build with a machine that managed to get you back from university, that you take to your first job and that you proudly lap around town.
You have two options, buy new or buy used. Depending on your budget or circumstance, opting for a new car could be the right choice for you. Otherwise, you can check out what brilliant used ford cars are available for you.
Top things worth considering:
This is something that depends on your situation. For the younger person, you will probably be reliant on your parents for financial support.
Where buying a car privately may appear cost effective, it is more of a risk. The seller only needs to ensure that the car is ‘as described’, and is not liable for anything else.
There are plenty of apps or sites that offer you ‘vehicle checker’, like Autotrader’s vehicle check. Tools like this can check all of the key information like whether it has been written off, imported, as well as the specifications and vehicle data.
Understand what you need:
Unless you’re a young football prodigy, or member of the Kardashians, you aren’t going to need the latest supercar with all of the added extras.
But it is important to know what you need from a car, if you understand what you need from your next car it will make the purchase process much easier, and the discussion with your parents much smoother.
For instance the engine size of your car. You need something that is safe enough for a new driver to control, but something that isn’t going to see you struggle up any gradient. This is where compromise with your parents, (if you are of this age) is necessary.
Ultimately, they want what is best for you in terms of safety, but that does not always mean being restricted to a car that is going to confine you to the slow lane. Going too slowly is as dangerous as going too fast after all.
Why do you think that most people buy hatchbacks like the ford fiesta? It’s because you are not in need of a massive truck with giant wheels and a monster engine. You need something that is comfortable and can fit a few people in.
Whether you are buying from someone privately or from a dealership, you should test drive the car.
When buying your first car, it is very important to have a parent or adult with you particularly when you are doing the test drive. You will have limited experience driving and may not be able to find some of the details that they will be able to pick up on. If possible, get them to drive the car as well, they will be able to tell if something is off after that.
It is a massive investment, and one you want to last, so do not feel bad about walking away from it after the test drive.
Statistically, young people are more likely to make a claim on their insurance than any other drivers. This has caused the price of insurance for new drivers to shoot through the roof, which is a problem when you are looking at the finances.
No matter how long you look, it feels impossible to get affordable, but practical insurance for your car. However, there are a lot of tricks for getting cheaper insurance prices.
Steer away from modified cars, the kind young people seem to love, because mods are known to increase premiums by hundreds of pounds.
You should pay yearly, not monthly, as it will actually work out more expensive if you stagger out the payments.
New vs Old:
When you buy a new car, you know you’re going to be able to get the exact car that you are looking for, right down to the finest details. You get to choose colours, interiors, exteriors and added extras when you buy a new car.
If you are looking at a new ford car, you’ll also be able to enjoy the benefits of higher fuel efficiency and low emissions.
But there are a lot of reasons to buy a used car. The initial fee will be cheaper than buying new, even if you are paying for a slightly older model. Buying a used car isn’t like buying an old phone model, you are more than likely going to be able to get something that will still run comfortably for many years.
You are also more likely to save money on insurance, which is the fee that ultimately determines which car you end up buying.
For an in-depth look at buying a used car, you can check out our expert guide.