Learning to Drive | My Experience
Learning to drive is something I left quite late. I’m 29 now and I passed my test 3 weeks ago today. Living in a city most of my life I just never really found the need to drive and so never bothered learning, up until last year. I started wanting to be able to drive myself places rather than relying on other people picking me up etc and I also just kind of started to feel like it was almost a right of passage as an adult. Driving is now something that I love and am so grateful that I can do. It’s made things so much easier, it’s shortened my commute, I can go where I want when I want and I can also take other people places. It’s taken a while and it’s certainly been hard at times but I’m so proud of myself for sticking with it and it’s 100% been worth it.
I started lessons in March 2017 and had an hour a week for about 2 months maybe 3 and then upped it to one two-hour lesson every week. I really wanted to make sure I felt super confident before I took my first test. Taking your driving test is stressful enough without the added stress of not thinking you’re ready. I was supposed to take my first test in November 2017 and arrived at the test centre feeling pretty nervous (read: terrified). However on this occasion there really was no need to be as I turned up only to be told that the examiner who was assigned to my test had just gone home sick so they had to cancel.
I was annoyed that I had come there for nothing but at the same time, I was also a bit relieved. I had been so nervous on my lesson the hour before my test, I’d completely lost my head and made some silly mistakes and was sure I was going to fail. So in a way, I was actually quite pleased it had been cancelled because it gave me more time to prepare.
The only thing that sucked was that my test was at the end of November and the UK driving test changed completely on December 4th meaning I had to learn to do different manoeuvres and would be driving to a sat-nav for 20 minutes rather than 10. None of that really bothered me though to be honest, to me, a driving test was a driving test and learning a couple of extra manoeuvres didn’t faze me.
Something I decided to do after my test got cancelled and after how nervous I was before the test was to buy myself a car. I felt like having a car of my own to practise in on top of my two-hour lesson each week would make a world of difference to my confidence and so the two days after my original test day myself and Will went to a local garage after seeing a car I liked online and I bought my first car!
I was so excited to have my first car. I decided on a 2012 Ford Ka Edge. I’d read lots of good things about them during my research into the best first cars to buy and what I wanted was something cheap to run, small for city driving/parking and reliable. I have to say, I absolutely love my little car. It’s so cute inside, it has cream accents and it’s just so little and nippy, I love it. It’s also got a really decent sized boot for a small car.
The next test I was able to book was January 22nd 2018. It was automatically booked for me as the DVSA had cancelled my previous one. It was luckily at the same time I had chosen for my first (non) test which was 10:24 am. I wanted to choose a time when it wouldn’t be too busy and felt like driving between 10:30 and 11 am would be the perfect time slot. I felt a little nervous beforehand but nowhere near as nervous as I was when I turned up the first time. The test itself I felt went really well, I felt confident in my driving abilities, I liked the examiner and we had a nice chat and I really truly thought I had passed.
When we pulled up to the test centre at the end of the test and he said I had failed with one major and one minor I was gobsmacked. I honestly thought my driving had been really good and as it turned out for the majority it had been. He gave me a major for apparently “straight-lining” at a roundabout, something I was adamant I hadn’t done and a minor for turning right when a car was approaching even though I had plenty of time as the car was a fair distance away. He did deliberate about the minor for a bit but added it on anyway. I was gutted. I didn’t agree with the result and it made me so upset because I genuinely felt that I had driven really well.
Nevertheless, I picked myself back up and booked in for another test on the 3rd of April. Waiting was the hardest part I think. I kept driving my car every weekend and my confidence grew and grew. If you have your own car or a car you can drive whilst learning then I really recommend driving as much as you can. It helps so much to build your confidence and experience up and can really help to prepare you for driving on your own once you pass.
When my test came around I was really nervous. I don’t know why because I knew what to expect, I guess it was just because I was so done with tests and waiting and I just really wanted to be passed and out driving on my own already. My test was at 12:42 pm, I was fine with this time because I knew it wouldn’t be particularly manic on the roads so that didn’t bother me. My examiner was also super nice, which of course I was really pleased about. In spite of all this though I was still incredibly nervous which ultimately let me down. On the sat nav section of the test the instruction, it read out to take the next right.
So I’m there driving along looking for this right turn, so nervous, so desperate to pass. As I’m driving I just keep thinking “just follow the instructions, follow the instructions” so I spot a turning and without bloody thinking I’m about turn when I spot the no entry sign. Unfortunately, despite realising my mistake almost immediately, I had already started to turn the wheel, not enough to actually take the turn, but enough for the examiner to know I had considered it showing that I hadn’t seen the road signs properly.
The test carried on and I kept it together even though I knew I’d failed. I was even more gutted when I got back to the test centre and he said I had no minors, my drive had been absolutely fine apart from the major I received for that one stupid, nervous mistake. What annoyed me the most was that if I had just glanced at the sat nav screen rather than just listening to the instructions I would have seen that the turning wasn’t until further ahead and actually wasn’t a right turning at all, it was a straight ahead.
Nerves are the absolute worst. They’re so hard to control and possibly the most annoying part of taking your test because they don’t go away really. Even when you know what to expect they stay there and make you second guess yourself and panic. After my second test, I was devastated with myself. I cried, I swore. I felt so deflated and really started to doubt myself. It’s easy to be hard on yourself but honestly, take it from me it’s not worth it. Silly mistakes don’t mean anything, passing the first time doesn’t mean you are a better driver. You don’t need to let these things knock your confidence, they don’t mean a thing.
When it came to booking my next test I found out that there was a three-month wait for one at the test centre I had my first two tests at. There was no way I wanted to wait that long for a test, I’d waited long enough by this point and I was fed up. I spoke to my instructor and she suggested I book in for a different test centre, Cardiff, one that is still close to me but a lot busier. At this point, I hadn’t even driven in Cardiff before.
I was a bit nervous about booking to take my test at a place I’d never actually driven in, but there was only a four-week wait and whilst I hadn’t driven there before I know Cardiff really well so I wasn’t going in completely blind. I spent the four weekends I had before my test driving around Cardiff. I drove to the test centre, practised a few test routes I had found online, tackled Gabalfa roundabout a few times and gradually got used to driving somewhere a lot more built up.
When my test day finally came I was nervous but determined. I knew how to drive, I knew the drill and I just wanted to finally pass. I went into the test centre, the examiner came out and called my name and I went out with him to the car. He seemed nice, not very chatty but nice enough. As I was driving, he stayed absolutely silent which before my test, if you had asked me I would have said is something that would make me really nervous.
However, it actually did the exact opposite and kept me focused. I had nothing to distract me and paid extra attention to the sat nav screen so that I can view the instruction rather than just listening to it. This really helped because it meant I couldn’t get caught out by misleading instructions. I tried to just keep a clear head throughout, not focus on whether I’d passed or failed, whether I was doing well or not, just following the route and paying attention.
We pulled into the test centre and I was feeling confident but apprehensive. When he said I had passed I just could not believe it had finally happened. I cried, I laughed, I shook his arm. I was so excited. My instructor was over the moon for me and it felt absolutely amazing to know I had passed. Holding that certificate felt so good and knowing I could go home and drive my own car was completely surreal to me.
My first drive on my own was definitely a little nerve-wracking. It felt strange to be in the car on my own but also completely normal. I don’t know why but I thought I would drive differently on my own, but it’s really just the same as when you drive with someone in the car. It’s now been three weeks since I passed and I’ve been driving non-stop. It’s made such a difference in my life and I’m absolutely loving the freedom to go where I want when I want.
If you’re learning to drive, don’t fret. You will pass. It might not be the first time, it might not be the second but you will pass. You just have to keep focused, stay positive and ultimately keep driving. Keeping your practise up is the most important thing because that’s what is going to increase your confidence and experience with driving and that’s what is going to help you pass. Of course so much of it is down to luck on the day, but eventually, luck is going to be on your side. No idiots pulling out on you, cutting you up on roundabouts, beeping you whilst you’re doing a manoeuvre and causing you to make a mistake. Choosing a time when there wouldn’t be as many people on the road (not anywhere near rush hour) to help too as it just relaxes you knowing that it’s not completely manic.
I loved reading posts like this before I passed but there wasn’t a lot out there so I really wanted to write mine once I passed so that it can help others who are learning.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post!