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Last year I published a post all about my experience of learning to drive so far and now I have passed my tests and I have my full license to drive a manual car then I thought I would update you on my experience of driving practice, practical driving tests and getting my license. My last post ended on my experience of driving lessons so let's carry on from there:
Driving Practice & Learner Driver InsuranceMy driving crash course was around eight days long and very intense (with one day being 5 1/2 hours of driving!) but I couldn't recommend a crash course enough. When it ended I had to wait a month for my first practical driving test as all of the test centres around me had very long waiting lists so one thing I would say to be prepared for if you are learning to drive is get ready to wait. I had to wait a month for my theory test back in April 2016, a month for my driving instructor to fit me in for lessons (May 2016) and a month for my first practical test (June 2016) - lots of waiting and even more to come so carry on reading if you want to know more.
As I had one month to wait, I didn't want to pay for more lessons as they are expensive so I decided to buy one month of learner driver insurance using my dads car; I used the company We Are Marmalade which was fantastic, very quick and easy to register with and I was able to drive pretty much instantly. One month of learner insurance was about £84 which is a reasonable price in my opinion and in the month before my first test, I drove every few days with my dad around where we live and where my test would be.
This month was invaluable in terms of learning in a more comfortable situation with my dad and to improve but don't get disheartened if you make mistakes as I did because everyone makes mistakes while learning to drive. I wish I had taken my own advice as I found myself crying numerous times in that month when I'd made a little mistake while driving (and by a little mistake I mean stalling the car or not parking arrow straight which are completely normal and teeny tiny inconsequential mistakes).
My First Practical Driving TestThe month was over and in the week leading up to my first practical driving test, I was so incredibly nervous and on the day I thought I would vomit every few minutes with nerves but thankfully it was late morning so I didn't have to wait very long. I had an hour lesson before my test to practice which I'd definitely recommend; when we arrived at the test centre we went in and sat down with the other people taking their test (there will be up to 8 of you going for your test at the same time) with their instructors. When your name is called you just need to show them your provisional drivers licence and answer a couple of questions as well as sign your name and confirm your address (FYI: I'm one of those people who doesn't like not know what the room/situation/protocol will be so that's why I'm going into details which I hope can help others like me). The first part of the practical test is the sight test where you have to read a number plate then we got in the car and he asked me the two 'show me, tell me' questions that you have to answer correctly, I think you get a minor if you don't but you are allowed up to fifteen minors, unless you have four or so of the same one which may lead to a major and then a fail.
We set off on my test route which felt so strange, uncomfortable and nerve wracking at first but when I started driving on roads I'd remembered from my lessons and practice I did calm down, Although I was never able to shake the feeling of him watching what I was doing and marking on his clipboard; even time he did I was sure I'd failed but you just have to keep going. I'm feeling nervous just remembering my first practical test! The test is around 38-45 minutes long and at the end I parked at the test centre and I remember him saying 'I'm sorry but on this occasion you haven't passed' and I felt my heart sink in my chest as well as feeling numb and disappointed. I only had six minors which is great but the reason I failed was because I'd gone down a road that apparently had a sign saying something like 'only permitted vehicles' which I didn't see and it was on a road I hadn't been on before - my instructor went back later to the road I'd failed on without me and he said that the sign isn't easy to see which made me feel so angry! The test is designed to test your driving abilities and to make sure you can drive safely, not to catch you out.
Booking My Second Practical Driving TestIt was safe to say that I felt so disappointed and now I had to pay for more lessons, learner insurance and another test which because of that teeny tiny mistake on my first test, cost me about another £400 which was so heartbreaking for me as I felt as though it wasn't 100% my fault that I'd failed. For my first test, my instructor looked for and booked my test without asking me which test centre I wanted but for my second practical test I booked it myself at the test centre I wanted and on a day/time that was right for me although it took me MONTHS to get a second test date as all of the test centres were booked up months and months in advance so you are just waiting for someone to cancel their date. I had to wait almost SIX MONTHS for my second test date which is ridiculous and so frustrating even though I was checking the website pretty much everyday or numerous times per day.
My Second Practical Driving TestIf you are based in North Manchester then this might be useful but I had my first test at the Cheetham Hill centre as it's apparently one of the best to pass at but I didn't want to go there again as it isn't close to me so I couldn't practice as much so for my second test I chose the Failsworth test centre which is easier for me to get to. It's worth noting that if the test centre you choose doesn't have it's own car park then you will NOT have to perform the 'reversing into a bay' manoeuvre which is great for me as that's my weakest one.
About a week before my test I was looking online to see if I could find information about the Failsworth test routes but I came across an article from the MEN newspaper saying that the Failsworth test centre is one of the worst centres to pass at in Greater Manchester...not what you want to read a week before your test in Failsworth. Anyway, I had a two hour lesson on the day of my test which helped so much as I had more time in the car to practice just before my test. Myself and my instructor went into the test centre and waited with the others, there were SO many people having their test at the same time, even my instructor said to me that he's hasn't seen so many people having their test at the same time before.
My examiner called my name then I did the sight test and the 'show me, tell me' questions before setting off in the rain with builders walking around everywhere. I had only been on my test for maybe a minute before I had to brake hard to avoid an accident as another car just pulled front of me very suddenly (the same thing happened at the end of my test too!). My examiner this time was so nice and friendly and I felt more confident with him than I did with my first. I think a lot of what contributes to if you pass is how nice your examiner is, the conditions on the day, other drivers and just luck on the day you have your test.
Thankfully the route I had on the day contained a lot of roads that I had practiced with my dad and my instructor earlier in the day which was lucky as there are a lot of roads in Failsworth that have so many speed changes (20 on a road that you would think was 30 and 40 on a road that you would think would be 30 etc); there are also quite a lot of junctions and SO many mini roundabouts on the route I had. During your test you will have to perform correctly one of four manoeuvres and I had 'reversing around a corner' and you may have to perform an emergency stop which I didn't have to do, unless you count the small ones caused by other drivers on my route.
I noticed my examiner mark on his clipboard three/four times while on my test and every time he did I managed to convince myself that I had failed but went we pulled up at the test centre, my instructor arrived and he said 'could you just give me a minute to add up my marks' or something like that and those 20 or so second felt like an hour! Finally he said that I'd passed and I couldn't believe it, I actually said 'thank god' and got a little teary. I received a blue form saying that I'd passed which acts as a full license until you receive your plastic license in the post, up to 28 days after you've passed (you don't have to pay for your full license). When I got home my mum looked so nervous but she was so happy when I said I'd passed; I rang my dad at work and he actually got quite emotional and teary on the phone as he has been helping me so much while practicing that it was such a relief that I'd passed second time round with only four minors.
Now I have my full license and I've been driving as a named driver on my dads insurance for about six weeks now; I initially wanted to buy my own insurance for my dad's car but it was over £1,800 up to £3,000 so as I'm turning the big 25 this year when the price of insurance should be lower, I thought I'd wait a bit to get my own insurance/car.
Phew, I know this is a really long post but here are some of my tips for learner drivers:
- Be prepared to wait and book your tests/lessons as soon as you can!
- Pass your theory test before you book lessons as you need to have passed it before you take your practical test and let's be honest, you need to know the rules of the road and road signs before you actually start driving
- You will make mistakes but don't take them to heart as everyone makes mistakes, even after passing your test - I wish I had, I would have saved myself from crying in the car!
- A crash course is quite expensive (mine was about £720 but it's worth it in my opinion)
- If you don't pass first time then don't worry, you can try again and it's worth keeping in mind that the tiniest mistake can cause a fail, it's just luck on the day
- Learning to drive in full has cost me well over £1000 but it's so worth it!
- Be vigilant, you always have to be looking everywhere while driving so always keep an eye out for speed signs, road signs/markings or potential hazards, especially on your test as it could easily be the difference between passing and failing!
Sorry for the incredibly long post but I wanted to include all of the details and my experiences that might be useful to others who are learning to drive. If you have any questions at all then you can leave a comment below, tweet me (@ofbeautyand) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll reply as soon as I can!
Are you learning to drive? If you have passed, how many times did it take? Any learner driver tips/advice?