Learning to drive - My experience

November 2018 snuck up and a bit of realisation hit, once real life started after University my free time would rapidly disappear. As well as my theory test which I had previously passed was due to expire in July 19. With these in mind, what better time to sort my driving test out.


After a quick google search, reviews run through and couple of finance checks, I gave the driving school a ring (I used RED), set up a profile and booked a lesson for the following week.


Nerves were up, questions came to mind like; would I be good at driving? Has anyone crashed on there first lesson before? Should I get life insurance?


The day of my first lesson came and an email came through saying that they’ve had to change my instructor and would have to rearrange…


So, a bit of an anticlimactic start.


Never mind, rearranged with the new instructor a lady named Claire who was amazing throughout. 14th November had my first lesson which entailed car setup, starting off and the most important aspect for starting, Clutch Control. What I found interesting is that finding the bite of a car is something that you can’t read, prep or really be ready for, it’s just about the feel of the car so new experience there.


After a few jumpy starts, I was off cruising the streets at a blistering 10 miles per hour.


The first of a few surprising things I found about driving was the apprehension at different speeds. Before driving I was nervous starting at any speed. After spending some time with normal street driving (up to 30-40 miles per hour) though, I did get comfortable with it.

Then the exact same happened when moving onto dual carriageways. You see the speedometer keep going up and up and up. 50, 60, 70 which led me to gripping the wheel tighter and tighter before getting more used to it.


Anyways, getting back to the first lesson.

I got used to clutch control, which learning in Sheffield is something you have to learn quite rapidly due to the fact there’s probably only a few hundred yards of flat roads in the whole City with the rest being an assortment of hills and slants of various gradients.


Tried a few roundabouts and that was that, so what was immediate next step…


Well booking the practical test of course, so that night booked the test for the 4th of January with the mindset of getting the lessons on a more regular basis, such as 2-3 per week to do this in the next month or so. That was the idea. However due to the instructor switch, the next available lesson wasn’t until the 29th November, so tad bit of recap was needed.


That second lesson was really the proper start of my consistent driving with over the next 5 weeks. Leading up to my test date I had 12 lessons in total with two hours per lesson.


I found I got used to it relatively quickly, mostly I believe from the intense lesson plan, even managing to fit in some other real-life driving skills in there as well during the later lessons.

What I mean by this is that driving lessons are a lot like revision for a specific topic, learning the skills required to pass a test whilst some real-life examples may be missed. So, an example for me was that I wanted to experience motorways whilst I was learning, even if it wasn’t part of my test.


Funny story, during my motorway learning experience a potential nervy moment came up.

Driving along, having just overtaken a lorry. I was in the middle lane progressing forward and I see two cars in front, one in the left lane, one in the right.

The car on the left starts indicating right. The car on the right starts indicating left.

They slowly start converging together into the middle lane, and I start checking mirrors in case of immediate need of braking or some matrix style evasive movement.

One or the other.

Luckily the car on the right realised the potential issue that was about to arise and returned to his own lane and I continued finishing my motorway experience with no other issues.


A part of the experience driving on the motorway which took me by surprise was that it wrecked my perception of speed for the remainder of the lesson. Going slightly over the speed limit a few times before catching myself, just out of not realising how quickly the car was going as it seemed comparatively slow from the motorway.


Another aspect of driving I found interesting was the fact it is quite the trust exercise, you’re both trusting everyone driving around you (as well as pedestrians) to be sensible, leave gaps, not pulling out at dodgy moments etc. But it’s also where you must be cautious of everyone, realising it’s not just about people’s confidence or skill, that just a small lapse in concentration or incorrect judgement can cause accidents. Having to be aware of this and drive with this understanding to make sure you can react in time.


Moving on from lessons to the actual driving test.


As a quick guide for the test.

It’s made up of 6 parts with the test being about 40 mins in total;


1. An eyesight test – Where the instructor checks you can read a number plate from 20 metres away, so at the test centre across the car park.

2. A tell me question – This is a question from a list you can find here about the running of a car which you’ll answer on the walk to the car with the examiner.

3. A show me question – This will be an action you take whilst driving when asked to do so by the examiner, the list of actions can be found here.

4. General driving – So this is for the majority of the test where you’ll continue driving making turns when the examiner tells you to do so.

5. Independent driving – So this will be a pre-determined route directed by the examiner or by Sat-nav.

6. A manoeuvre – This will be one selected from four (of which you’ll have practised during lessons), being between a front bay park, reverse bay park, a parallel park or stopping on the opposite side of the road, reversing and setting off again.


4th January, Test Day


Before the actual test was about 50 minutes where I drove the learner car to the centre but also stopping to have some last-minute practice of some of the manoeuvres, couple of roundabouts and crossroads.


After that, the arrival at the test centre about 5 mins early, park up, (would recommend reverse parking into the bay then it’s easy to set off as opposed to starting your test reversing out), head in with provisional license and the theory pass certificate in hand and wait for my turn.


The examiner comes out wearing a high vis jacket on, couple bits of paperwork to sign and its finally time to head out.


First eyesight test on a BMW down the road. Easily read (with glasses assist). Thank god or else it would have been a very quick end to the test.


Tell me question, which for me was about fog lights. Again easily done and out the way.


Get in the car, key in and ready to set off. Examiner gives the go ahead and off we go.


Overall the test went well apart from the manoeuvre which I made an absolute bee of.


We turned into a pub car park, the same one I had practiced in the previous day, for a front bay park. It was a bit busy at the bottom but that’s where I had practiced so I was confident in doing the park there… but then the examiner said. ‘you can keep going to where it’s less busy’, and in hindsight I should have said ‘no, this is fine’ but alas I didn’t and continued around the car park to a emptier section.


I stop. Check my marker for the manoeuvre is in the right place. Check my blindspots.

Lock the wheel to the right and start moving into the bay slowly… and end up half-way in two bays *facepalm*


At first, I didn’t know how I’d gone so far wrong when I was sure I’d got everything the same as practice. Except one key difference I hadn’t considered.

The car park where I had to do the bay park was on a downslope, so as I had gone about as normal the car had rolled forward more than it was supposed to. As I carried on as if it was on flat ground it overran, and I ended up intruding on next doors bay.

After a few self-directed comments about how amazing at driving I was, I reversed and parked my way in properly which although was an annoyance isn’t a fail just a minor on the record.


After that debacle the independent driving started, which for me was done by Sat nav meaning the examiner put in a location on the Sat-nav and then left me to follow it’s instructions for the next 20 mins or so.

That sped by relatively quickly after which the examiner then directed me back to the test centre. I parked up and she added her last few notes on the test report.


The moment of truth…


‘How did you feel the test went?’ she said

‘Fine, apart from the bee I made of the front bay park’ I responded

She was then distracted by a car moving out of the test centre, being a learner beginning their test.

‘Right sorry, um what was I going to say?’ Talking to herself mainly.

‘That I’ve passed’ I said a bit jokingly, a bit nervously.

‘Yeah that’s what I was going to say’


She was then a bit embarrassed as this was meant to be a bit of a dramatic moment being told that I had passed and I would have a full driving license, instead of an anticlimactic reveal. I didn’t mind as we found it quite funny after.

It turned out it was the examiners daughter who had been in the car leaving the test centre when we parked up which was the cause of the distraction.


Then coming to the end, I signed the test report, handed over my provisional to be sent to receive my full one and that was the end of that. Full Driving License goal achieved.

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