Learning to Drive Glossary

When you’re learning to drive you hear a lot of new things. New words, new ideas, new acronyms that are meant to be easy to remember but somehow aren’t, there’s just too much to learn!

To help you out, we’re building a living glossary of terms that learner drivers might hear from their instructors, other learners or anyone else.


ABS – Antilock braking system. The technology which allows you to steer the car while braking sharply. You may feel a juddering when ABS is active.

Accelerator – The pedal that controls your speed.

ADI – Approved driving instructor. A fully qualified driving instructor who should display a green badge in their windscreen.

Automatic Vehicle – A vehicle with a gearbox which changes gears for the driver.

ANPR – Automatic number plate recognition. Used in places like petrol stations to gather number plates.


Bay parking – A manoeuvre which involves parking in an allotteded bay by reversing into it. May come up on your driving test.

Box junctions – Junctions with a yellow crosshatched box indicating that traffic may not enter unless their exit is clear.

Brake – The pedal that slows you down.

Blind Spots – Areas of the road which cannot be seen by a driver, even when using the rearview or side mirrors. Read our guide to blind spots for more information.

BHP – Brake horse power. A measurement of your car’s power.

Block bookings – Booking large numbers of driving lessons and paying upfront. Some instructors offer block booking discounts.


Car tax – See VED.

Car sharing – Driving lessons in which several learners are in the car together, taking turns. Also known as piggybacking. Not an ideal way to learn to drive.

Camber – The curve of the road from crown to curb.

Crown – The highest point of the camber, in the middle of the road.

Curb – The edge of the road/start of the pavement. Hitting the curb is never, ever a good thing.

Clutch control – Preventing the car from stalling and exercising fine control using the clutch.

Clutch – The pedal that disengages the engine from the wheels.

Cockpit drill – The basic car set up routine that you should be doing every time you get into the car.

Controlled junctions – Junctions featuring traffic lights and often including multiple lanes.

Code of practice – A list of behaviours and professional standards for driving instructors set out by the DSA.

CRB checked – Criminal records bureau checked. A check to make sure that someone has no criminal convictions. All new driving instructors now must be CRB checked.


Dashboard warning lights – Little symbols which light up on your dashboard to let you know if anything’s wrong with your vehicle.

Dash cam – A dashboard-mounted camera used to record your journey. Footage from dash cams is sometimes used in insurance disputes.

Diesel – A type of fuel which is compressed before ignition, unlike petrol.

Defensive driving – Expecting the unexpected when out on the road.

Dual carriageway – A high speed main road with two or more lanes.

Dual controls – A system which places pedals in both the drivers’ and passenger side footwells, giving your driving instructor/examiner some degree of control of the vehicle during your driving lessons and test day.

DSA – Driving standards agency. The government body in charge of most things to do with driving and learning to drive in Great Britain.

DSSSM – Driving routine which stands for ‘doors, seat, steering, seatbelt and mirrors’. Used to help learners to remember how to perform the cockpit drill.

Driving test report – The feedback form you get after completing your driving test.


EuroNCAP – The European New Car Assessment Programme. A car safety assessment.

Emergency stop – A controlled but sudden piece of braking. Comes up in around a third of driving tests.


Filter lane/lights – The lights and lanes used to control traffic in busy areas.

Fully comprehensive – The highest level of insurance cover available. Covers you and any third parties.


Green badge – The badge a fully qualified driving instructor displays on their windscreen.


Handbrake – Also known as the parking brake. Powerful brake used to keep the car stationary, usually found in the middle of the cockpit, near the gearstick.

Hazard lights – Lights which you only turn on when your car has broken down, your car is obstructing traffic or there’s a serious hazard ahead. Usually found as a white triangle on a red button on your dashboard.

Hazard perception – Part of the driving theory test which involves spotting hazards in real-life clips of driving scenarios.


IAM – Institute of advanced motorists. A motoring organisation.

Independent driving – A section of the driving test where you’ll have to drive unaided for around 10 minutes. You’ll have to follow road signs and traffic signals without any help from the instructor.

Indicators – The flashing lights on the dies of your vehicle which are used at junctions to signal which direction you intend to travel in.

Interior mirror – Also known as the rearview mirror, the interior mirror is the rectangular one mounted in the middle of the windscreen on the inside of the vehicle.

Intensive driving course – A method of learning to drive quickly which involves taking a lot of driving tuition in a short space of time.


Lane positioning – Ensuring that your car is in the correct place in your chosen lane to make a manoeuvre.

LADA routine – Driving routine which stands for ‘look, assess, decide, act’.

L-plates – The temporary markings placed on a vehicle which someone’s learning to drive in.

Level crossings – Crossings where railway lines pass over the road. There are several types of level crossings.


Marked junctions – Junctions with stop signs and lines. These will almost certainly come up on your driving test.

MSPSL routine – Driving routine standing for ‘mirrors, signal, position. speed, look’.

Manoeuvres – Particularly controlled pieces of driving which’ll come up during your driving test. The manoeuvres you may encounter are: turn in the road, reverse around a corner, reverse parallel park and reverse bay park.

MOT – Ministry of Transport test. Test to ensure that your car is up to a minimum standard of safety and roadworthiness.

Mock driving test – A pretend driving test taken with your usual instructor to see how well you’d perform in the real thing.

MPH – Miles per hour. A measurement of speed.


No claims bonus – A discount on the cost of your insurance if you’ve not claimed with them for a full year.


One-way traffic – Traffic which can only pass in one direction.


P-plates – Probationary plates. Optional plates displaying a large green P, which you can choose to place on your vehicle in the months after you pass your test.

Pass rate – The percentage of a driving instructor’s pupils who pass their practical driving test.

Pass Plus – Advanced training for new drivers.

Parallel parking – A manoeuvre which involves parking in a parallel space by reversing into it. May come up on your driving test.

Pelican crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing featuring a pedestrian-controlled set of traffic lights.

Petrol – Fuel for vehicles. Made from dead dinosaurs. Horribly expensive.

PDI – Potential driving instructor, an instructor in training. Will display a pink badge in their windscreen.

Puffin crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing which is similar to but more sophisticated than the pelican crossing.

Pegasus crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing which people mounted on horseback can use.

Provisional licence – The green driving licence that all learner drivers in the UK have.

POM routine – Driving routine which stands for ‘Preparation, observation, manoeuvre’.


Reverse bay park – A manoeuvre which involves reversing into a parking bay. May come up on your driving test.

Reverse around a corner – A manoeuvre which involves, unsurprisingly, reversing around a corner. May come up on your driving test.

Roundabout – A type of junction that often presents a challenge to new drivers.

Road tax – See VED.

RoSPA – The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.


SCALP routine – A driving routine which stands for safe, convenient and legal position. Used when looking for a safe place to stop your vehicle.

School crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing found near schools and often manned by a lollipop lady/man.

Start-stop technology – A reasonably recent development in car tech which allows the engine to automatically stop running when the vehicle is stationary and automatically restart when you begin to move again.

Stalling – A sudden and (usually) unexpected stop of the engine due to poor clutch control or inappropriate gear selection.

Stopping distance – The distance it would take your car to come to a complete stop if you were to sharply brake. Increases in wet weather.

Supervising driver – A qualified driver who accompanies you on practise drives.

Side mirrors – Also known as door mirrors and wing mirrors, side mirrors are the ones attached to the sides of your vehicle.

Show me tell me questions – Questions your examiner will ask you at the start of your driving test. They relate to the maintenance and safety of the vehicle.


Tailgating – Driving unnecessarily close to the vehicle in front of you.

Telematics – A way of tracking your vehicle’s position and speed using GPS. This is how ‘black box’ insurance works.

Toucan crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing which both pedestrians and cyclists can cross.

Traffic light sequence – The order in which the lights on a set of traffic lights illuminate.

Third party only – A type of insurance that only covers damage and injury to the person/vehicle you damage. Is the minimal level of cover and is popular with learner drivers due to the lower cost.

Third party fire and theft – A type of insurance cover that includes damage caused by fire and theft in addition to the third party cover mentioned above.

Theory test – Multiple choice exam which you must pass before you are entitled to book your practical test.

Tread depth – The ‘tread’ are the grippy lines on your tyres. The grooves in your tread must be at least 1.6mm deep, but it’s recommended that you change your tyres once the tread depth approaches 3mm.

Turn in the road – Also known as the three-point-turn, the turn in the road is a manoeuvre which you will no longer encounter in your driving test, but is still a good skill to learn. It involves turning the car around without touching the kerb.


Unmarked junctions – Small junctions without stop/give way signs or lines. Usually found in rural areas.


V11 reminder – The letter you receive to tell you that your VED is up for renewal.

VED – Vehicle Excise Duty, also known as road tax, car tax and vehicle tax. Annual tax payable on vehicles. Based on your vehicle’s emissions.


Zebra crossing – A type of pedestrian crossing identified by the black and white striped path across the road and the striped poles topped with flashing amber beacons.