In 2012, there were 75,000 17-year-olds with a full driving license. That number bumps up to 3.5million when you change it to 17-24-year-olds. That’s a lot of young people that are trusted to drive - but, it’s hard to fathom that when you’re brand new.
The first thing to remember is that it’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, people expect learner drivers to make mistakes. You should have clear L plates on your car (both front and back) - this will let people know to treat you with patience. If you stall, or you take a bit longer to set off, it’s completely fine. There’s no point in letting it affect you; leave the mistake where it happened. There will be people about who see your L plates and overtake you, or maybe even pull out in front of you, but don’t let that shake you up either. It’ll happen on the road whether you’re a learner or not and while its a rare occurrence, don’t let road rage get in the way or feel the need to respond to the dangerous driver.
It’s also super important to stay in a place you’re comfortable with. Your instructor will build your skills up and might push you to do things you don’t feel ready for so make sure you’re clear. If they want you to go to a big roundabout but you’re not ready, ask to stick to smaller ones. You will have to deal with them eventually but as aforementioned, it’s about building skill and doing things when you’re ready.
This especially applies if you’re out in your car/your parent's car with someone who’s not an instructor - the law in the UK states anyone can take you out, provided they’re in the passenger seat, 21 or over and have held a full license for at least three years. If you’re going out with between lessons then build on the skill you have rather than try to make new ones. This means practicing certain maneuvers that may have come up in your lessons or going on roundabouts you’ve become familiar with during the lessons as well. I’ve found that I’ve picked up bad habits when trying to learn something new with my mum in the car - your instructor will teach you everything to test standard so don’t do anything that would go against it.
Another thing to remember is that it might take time. Some people learn to drive in four months, whilst others take nine months and some take years. It may be that it’s not a priority for you, or you just don’t pick up certain things. That’s 100% fine - it took me almost six weeks to change gears properly. You’ll get used to the car you’re learning (or your own/your parent's car) and it’ll come naturally eventually.
Lastly, explore automatic cars. Manual cars, for learners, can be quite stressful - worrying about changing gears adds to the multitasking and having a clutch pedal adds a whole extra one to the mix. Automatic cars can’t stall and they don’t have a clutch; you only have to occasionally worry about shifting the lever between drive, park and neutral. It may be worth trying both; I did and found that I preferred a manual car, but I know a few other people have found automatic cars to be the most preferable option. The only downside is that you can’t drive a manual car if you pass on an automatic test but it’s hardly limiting. It might be that you pass a test in an automatic and move onto a clutch after a few years of experience.
Automatic cars are hugely popular in America; only eighteen percent of people in the USA drive a manual and ninety-five percent of cars manufactured have automatic shift boxes. It really can make the driving experience better and may be a worthwhile option for you.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.