Around the bend!
The essential guide for anyone learning to drive…
Highway Code from back to front, not to mention the countless hours of relentless private practice that, yet your theory and practical test revision is still driving you around the bend! Don’t worry, all the help you need to pass your driving test is right here and the best part is, you don’t even need to start the engine!
Now the academic year is drawing to a close I’ve noticed a lot of people making the great decision to learn how to drive. I thought it would be useful for me to post this article to my blog which I originally wrote for my college magazine, just after I had passed the test myself, almost six years ago. Some parts of the test have changed slightly since I became a qualified driver but I’ve researched this in order to keep as up-to-date as possible. If you are currently learning to drive, or just want to brush up on some facts, then I hope this article can be of some help to you and that driving gives you as much enjoyment as it does me.
The fact is that everyone you see behind the wheel of car that doesn’t have L Plates attached must have passed their driving test – otherwise it’s a blatant offence. The only difference will be if someone passed the British driving test before the 1st of July 1996 they would not have taken a theory and hazard perception test first.
If you thought that all you had to do to get a valid UK driving licence was to drive a car around for 40 minutes then you’re wrong. Learner drivers now also take 50 Who Wants to be a Millionaire style questions, which could range from what to do first at the scene of an accident to what to do when there is fog on the roads. Then you have to watch 14 clips of road hazards developing. This isn’t time to put your feet up; you now need to be constantly paying attention. It probably feels like a lot of extra pressure, but these additions to the driving test will make you a safer driver in the long run. Think about it – if you didn’t take this test then how would you know how fast your reaction speed is? This could greatly reduce the risk of involving you, or anyone else, in an accident.
The Theory Test
There’s no need to worry about taking the theory test; now more people are learning to drive now than ever before, so you can choose whatever method of revision you want. Either CDs or the ‘back to school’ version of books, the choice is yours. It really isn’t as bad as it seems once you get started… honest! Don’t let the prospect of taking the test get you down because it’s nothing like the exams you will remember when sitting in an exam hall. You have questions with multiple-choice answers – you don’t even need a pen in your hand! The test is taken via touch screens in test centres all across the country, proving that this new section of the test really does belong in the twenty first century.
Hazard perception follows directly after the theory test, you will see 14 clips that have been specially recorded and contain examples of all common types of hazards. This could be anything that can potentially happen in real life situations, from a cyclist cutting in front of you to a lorry parked on a bend. There are 5 points available on each clip and the earlier that you spot a potential hazard the more points you will be awarded. The computer records your responses when you click with the mouse as soon as you spot one. Don’t under-estimate the hazard perception part of the test; it’s a lot harder than it sounds but with some practice from the Internet or DVDs you should be fine.
We’ve got the theory side sorted, now lets think about the practical side of things. Once you’ve passed your theory and hazard perception you then have a maximum of two years to pass your practical test. Make sure you use the time wisely with your instructor, private practice sessions in your own time do help a lot too. Your instructor will tell you when you should to be entered for a practical exam. You then take the test at your local test centre in either your instructor’s car or one of your own choice. Just make sure that it’s up to MOT standard first, otherwise it won’t be eligible!
The duration of the test is approximately 40 minutes and, after a quick eyesight check, there are two ‘Show me’, ‘Tell me’ vehicle safety questions the examiner will ask you before you switch on the ignition. This gives you the chance to display how a section of the car works, which could mean checking the oil level, if the brake lights work, and so on. If you answer one or both of these questions wrong it will result in either one or two minor faults being recorded.
During the test you will encounter some hazards along a pre-planned route – just like in real life. You will have to complete manoeuvres that you have been learning in lessons as well. These manoeuvres will consist of any two of the following:
- Parallel parking,
- Reversing around a corner,
- Reversing into a parking bay (if your test centre has a car-park).
You may also have to do an emergency stop, but only if you are in an appropriate location to do so. The examiner will tell you this beforehand.
Don’t panic! You’ve been learning all of this with your instructor during lessons, so you will know what to expect when the time comes. All that’s left for me to say now is to wish you the very best of luck for your driving test but, more importantly, in all your future driving – after you rip up those L Plates!