No driving journey is completely smooth. When working towards gaining your licence, you’re likely to hit a pothole or two along the way—both literally and figuratively! After all, learning to drive is a big undertaking that costs time, money and maybe even a bit of your emotional stability!
At the end of the day, though, it is very much worth it. Seriously, you just can’t beat the sense of freedom and accomplishment that comes with earning your very own driving licence.
In the interest of setting you up to have the best possible driving journey, we’ve mined the experiences of the many people who have come through our doors in order to pinpoint the most common regrets that plague learner drivers. This isn’t about dwelling on mistakes, but rather treating such errors as an important lesson in how NOT to approach learning to drive. If the mistakes in question have been made by other people so that you can just learn by proxy—even better!
Here we go, then: the top 5 things learner drivers most regret doing…
1. Not taking the theory test seriously
One of the first things you’ll want to get checked off your list when learning to drive is the theory test. Part multiple choice questions, part hazard perception clips—this exam is no walk in the park. For some reason, though, many people assume that it will be and so don’t bother to revise for it properly. Honestly, if we had a penny for every learner who underestimates how hard the theory test is, everyone in the office would be driving a Bugatti by now!
You see, a lot of people hear ‘multiple choice’ and assume it is the type of quiz you can blag your way through. Oh, how wrong they are. These aren’t like the multiple choice questions from the golden days of GMTV competitions—What colour is the sky? A: red, B: blue, C: purple or D: chair. Nope, the theory test is a deep dive into the rules outlined in the Highway Code, with a few traffic signs thrown in for good measure.
Don’t let yourself get lazy with the hazard perception section, either. Clicking too often or in a particular pattern while watching the video clips will result in a fail. While there’s no shame in failing to pass first time, it’s simply not necessary to waste your money retaking tests. There are plenty of resources out there to help you understand exactly what’s required of you and get test ready. Read our theory test rundown for more information on what to expect!
How to prepare
Now that you know what not to do, let’s have a quick look at what you can do to ensure theory test day is a success. For starters, you can find lots of helpful theory test advice on our news page. Or, if you want some official DVSA material, check out the mock tests you can do online.
We highly recommend getting your theory test booked in and passed as soon as possible, so that you can start focusing on your practical driving skills. You won’t be able to book a practical test until you’re the proud owner of a theory test pass certificate. So, better get studying!
2. Waiting too long to book a test
Whether it’s down to nerves, a lack of self belief, or a desire to put it off for as long as possible, some people take quite a while to commit to a practical test date. Even if you go for the intensive approach to lessons, learning to drive can take time. You need to keep in mind that once you feel ready to take the test (or your instructor assures you that you are) it could be another few months before a test slot becomes available. Gotta love those pesky wait times!
This is why we always recommend that learners book a practical test quite early, even if the date itself if a long way off. It gives you a set goal to work towards and you can organise your lessons accordingly.
That is not to say you should just jump at the next available test slot. Picking a realistic date is still important, because you don’t want to stray into another issue some learners regret, which is taking the test before they are ready. Have a chat with your instructor early on in the learning process to get a rough idea of a time frame for completing your lessons and sitting the test.
3. Not practicing outside of lessons
There’s a lot to get your head around when it comes to driving and it’s perfectly natural for learners to feel a little overwhelmed at times. This is one of the reasons why the DVSA recommends that you practise your driving with family and/or friends, as well as a professional instructor. It’s a great way to work on your skills and get used to driving with different people in the car.
If driving outside of your main lessons is an option that’s available to you, just make sure you adhere to the rules. The person you practise with needs to be at least 21 years old, have a licence to drive the car you’re using, and have held this licence for at least 3 years.
Practise what your instructor preaches
Taking these extra lessons ensures you’re devoting sufficient time to your driving, which should really build up your confidence behind the wheel. They need to be approached in a particular way, though.
What you have to consider is that family members and friends who have been driving for years may have picked up bad habits that the DVSA would not be thrilled about. Use these sessions as an opportunity to practice the skills your instructor has taught you, not as a time to learn new things.
4. Taking a break from the learning process
We’ll let you into a little secret: there will never be a perfect time to learn to drive. What we mean by this is that life has a way of throwing challenges at you that could interfere with lessons or stall your driving plans altogether. In such scenarios, unless it is really out of the question to keep driving (and we appreciate that financial, health or family emergencies take priority!), we recommend that you resist calling a time out.
You see, taking a long break from driving can set your progress back significantly. It often means that you’ll eventually have to fork out even more money, just to learn the same things all over again. Not ideal. If possible, get stuck into your driving lessons and keep at it until you manage to pass the test.
5. Letting nerves get the better of them
Being in charge of a powerful vehicle and having to learn a whole new range of skills can really throw people out of their comfort zone. As a result, nerves are a somewhat inevitable part of learning to drive—but they can be worse for some than others. If they get so bad that they prevent you from making progress, it’s time to do something about it.
The driving test itself is going to be a bit of a stressful situation, there’s no getting around that. You can, however, control the intensity of your nerves and how you respond to them.
Adrenaline is your friend
Dealing with driving nerves requires a two-pronged approach: using the adrenaline to your advantage and believing in your own abilities. Just like an actor about to take to the stage, you can use the adrenaline produced by anxiety to improve your performance. Think about it—driving requires you to be alert and focused, so channel your nervous energy into these senses!
Don’t assume that nerves are a sign that you’re not a competent driver, either. A big part of feeling confident behind the wheel is how you view your own skills. If you’ve put the work in and your instructor thinks you’re ready for the test, trust the expert and believe in yourself!
Everyone’s driving journey is different, so there are a range of things learner drivers might do differently if they had the opportunity to go back in time. The above 5 points are just the most common ones that we hear from newly qualified drivers. Use them as a map that highlights the bumps in the road to avoid in order to enjoy a straightforward driving journey.