Learning to drive can be one of the most important decisions that we make in our lives. Not a hint of exaggeration there. Some jobs we apply for even require us to be able to drive. And in the right vehicle, it can be fantastic fun. However, having been through the process myself, there are a few tips I would like to share that would have made it easier for me and many others. Without further ado, here are my 5 pieces of advice for learning to drive the alternative way;
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Leave Overconfidence Behind
Learning to drive a car is not the easiest task ever tried. The task will become even less easy if you walk into it thinking that you will ace it straight away. This sort of mentality at best will cause an embarrassingly stall. Worse, it could cause a low speed shunt, and then things start getting expensive. A far better approach is to recognise that you still have much to learn, both in terms of how a car works and how to get the best out of it. So don’t assume you know everything before you’ve got behind the wheel. It’s the best recipe for things ending very badly.
Do Your Homework
Learning how to physically drive is actually just one aspect of being a good driver. It’s also important to know how a car actually works. This is partly because it’s good practice in later life (and you can make use of far more of this website). But it’s also because you will be asked to demonstrate some of your knowledge during the test. You will need to know about the engine oil, coolant, and brake fluid. It will reassure the examiner further if you can show that you know why they are all important and what they do. This will show a mentality to learn, which is rarely a bad thing. Studying the highway code is vital to passing the theory test and remaining safe on the road.
Practice The Right Stuff
There is a popular saying. Practice makes perfect. This is complete rubbish, if you are practising the wrong thing! If you are going to practice, then make sure you are doing exactly as the instructor requests. Practising with family members who have picked up bad habits from over the years could be less productive if you then start copying them.
Practising theory test questions on the other hand is an excellent way to ensure that you are safe and fully on board with the highway code. This I can recommend completely. Find a quiet place, bury your head in a theory test book, and you’ll soon be on you way to a pass. A lot of the questions are multiple choice and the answers will start making sense once you read through the relevant books.
See From Other Viewpoints
This was a piece of advice that dawned on me when I was learning to ride a motorcycle. So often I see accidents happen due to road users not always being aware of each other. This is despite the theory test discussing blind spots in some detail. Being able to see the road from a car, van and motorcyclist’s viewpoint has I’m sure made me a better driver (despite one or two minor spills).
This last piece of expert advice is based more around never being complacent on the road, rather than any government message. It pays to always ask yourself the ‘what if’ questions. It pays to have a look at other vehicles and see how they may react to given situations. We cannot possibly be prepared for every animal that will run across in front, or every person that may step into the road without looking. But if we expect it, we will be in a better position to react calmly. This is key to not making a given situation more dangerous. Mastering this is very important for hazard perception.
I learned to drive in 2007, having been studying cars for far longer than this. I was far too interested in cars to not have a go at this myself. The first lessons didn’t go very well. I blame my toothache, although the reality is that I was probably expecting to do better than I did. My clutch control wasn’t great and the car wasn’t moving smoothly. This was until lesson 3, when I started to read around the subject, and practice moving the left leg as smoothly as possible.
This turned out to be a turning point, as my gear changing became smoother, and I was looking at the gearbox less. I just relied on feel and engine note to be able to work out which gear I was in. This meant I had more brain power left to concentrate on car placement, mirrors, other road users, weather conditions. There’s quite a lot to think about when driving.
A month after my first lesson, I was booked in for the theory test. I took a train a few stops away from home and spent a few hours with my head buried in a theory book. Possibly extreme I know, but it did work: I got full marks in the multiple choice and only lost 7 points in the hazard perception. This did give me the confidence to carry on.
Due to a cancellation, I was actually able to get a practical test a week later. Myself, my instructor and my family all felt it might be too soon, as I had only had my first lesson 5 weeks previous. I still went. It was a Sunday morning, and it was lightly raining. Therefore, there was absolutely no one out on the road for me to crash into or run over. So I passed, despite picking up a few minors on the way. 13 years later, despite driving some very quick machinery on both four and two wheels, the tips above have (generally) kept me out of trouble!
What’s your driving story? What tips would you give to some just starting out? is there anything that you would add to my list, or leave out? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to join the family. Thanks for reading!