Choosing Driving Instructor To Pass Driving Test.

Choosing a driving instructor is a very important step to take when it comes to learning to drive and passing the UK driving test, so you need to make sure that your decision is not just based on price.

You have applied for your provisional license, started preparing for the Theory Test, and now want to do some practical driving, but don't know where to get a good driving instructor, I hope the following information will be of help.

Your first point of call for choosing an instructor, is to ask friends or family for any recommendations, they know you well, and should be able to judge if you will get on with the driving instructor they had lessons or passed their UK driving test with, you should ask questions like what was it they enjoyed about the instructor, how was his/her time keeping, was he/she patient when you had difficulties and do they offer good value for money (not necessarily the cheapest), where they reliable, what was their lesson cancellation policy, do they offer a full hour or was it 50 minutes.

If you don't get any recommendations, then you'll have to find a driving instructor yourself by either searching on the internet or phoning one of the national driving schools.

Using this avenue usually means you will be paying a premium price for your lesson as the school will want to re-coup their advertising costs, but remember you are the customer, so make sure you are happy with your instructor otherwise ask for a new one if you are not comfortable with who you have got. Never be afraid to change driving instructors if he/she is constantly late, cancelling your lessons, abusive to you, impatient when you make mistakes or you are not comfortable with them for whatever reason! Many learners will put up with bad service when they are the ones paying to be taught, you need to vote with your money, they need you more than you need them, there is no shortage of driving instructors, you just need to find the right one for you!

TIP: Make sure your instructor is based a max of 20mins drive from where you are being picked up for your lesson, this will help ensure your lessons are on time and reduce the likelihood of short notice cancellations.

Question: Do I really need to use a driving instructor in order to pass my test?

Answer: You don't need to learn to drive with a driving instructor, if you can find someone who is 21 or older, has had a Full UK driving license for at least 3yrs, then they can accompany you as you drive and teach you whatever they know, but make sure the car you use has a MOT and is insured for you to drive otherwise you and the driver with you would be breaking the law.
The advantage of taking lessons using a driving instructor are you don't have to worry about the car or it's insurance, but more importantly you have someone qualified and has the current knowledge of the DVSA test requirements to teach you all the skills required to pass the UK driving test and avoid minor or major errors.

Note: I don't think it is possible to pass the current driving test without having had any lessons with a driving instructor (a least not at the first attempt time, even 1 session could make the difference and could save you the fees of having to re-book and the long wait associated with that).

How To Deal with Mini Roundabouts Sucessfully

Dealing with roundabouts is one of the skills many learner drivers find very daunting, and would rather avoid them if possible, especially on a test, however you can not escape them especially if taking your driving test in London where on one particular driving test route (Borehamwood) I counted about 20 mini-roundabouts!

I'm going to give you a few tips that will help you better understand how to deal with them and hopefully boost your confidence, starting with mini roundabouts.

First of all there are two prerequisite skills which you should have that will go a long way to helping you deal with roundabouts and get you confident for the UK driving test.

1. Make sure you do not have a problem moving off and stopping. If you are consistently stalling the car when moving off, or are having problems remembering to select the 1st gear after stopping before moving off, then get plenty of practise doing this until you are confident with this skill.

2. You should be able to make smooth gear changes down, using block gear changes where necessary. Again practice changing down various gears until you are confident in this area. The key here is you use the brakes to slow down the car and then select the right gear to continue at that speed. Using block gear changes on the UK driving test will give you extra kudos with the examiner, as this is an advanced driving skill. Note: You should not be taking your eyes of the road to change gears!

Get these two skills sorted out, and you are half way there when it comes to roundabouts.

You obviously know how to identify a mini roundabout, and know from the Highway Code the basic roundabout rule that you only have to give way to traffic approaching from the right of the junction. It is absolutely key you know these 2 steps, as it will help you to deal smoothly with mini roundabouts.

First tip don't bother about signalling to come off a mini-roundabout, they are too small, and you usually don't have enough time to do it while you are steering and still keep proper control of the vehicle.

Second, you only need to signal at a mini roundabout when you are either turning right or left, so if following the road ahead no signals are required on a mini roundabout, as they would be confusing to other road users.

Third, when your instructor or examiner on the driving test is referring to a mini roundabout, there is a word that is constantly absent EXIT (some DVSA examiners do mention exits, but remember not to signal to exit unless you can do so safely). The instruction will usually be 'at the roundabout I want you to turn right'

Okay now lets deal with the approach and what you need to do when you get to the roundabout.

A roundabout is a junction, and from your knowledge of junctions you will know the junction is either OPEN or CLOSED.

An OPEN junction is one which on the approach, you can see clearly what is approaching from either sides, and in the case of the mini roundabout we are only concerned with what is approaching from the right.
A mini roundabout is usually found in residential or built up areas, and you usually need to go round them very slowly (avoiding driving over the white central section).

Okay so we are approaching an OPEN mini roundabout and are turning right (it doesn't matter which way we are going, the speed we drive round the roundabout will almost be the same), we check our mirrors, put our signal on, our position in the road does not change (unless on the rare occasion where you have 2 lanes approaching a mini-roundabout), we now look ahead, spot the roundabout, our main concern is traffic approaching from the right, so if there is anything that we think we might give way to, then our first thought is to try and slow the car down enough so that if possible we get to the roundabout just as that car goes past our entrance and we don't have to stop, but follow it if there is a safe gap. this is where smooth gear changes come in. Many people make a habit of stopping at a roundabout during the UK driving test when they could have just slowed the car enough to give way to the approaching traffic from the right, the other mistake a lot of candidates make is they stare to the right without checking in front to see what the car ahead is doing or how fast they are getting to the junction.

If we find out that we do have to stop (because there is a stream of cars coming from the right), then approach the junction in whatever gear you are in, stop at the give way line, put the car in 1st gear, and if stationary for more than about 3-5 seconds put the handbrake on. You should also always use the handbrake when you stop if there is a possibility you will roll back.
Once you have stopped at the roundabout, get that car at the biting point ready to go when you spot a safe gap in the traffic.

Spotting the gap requires practise, there are clues that can help though, the speed of cars, their signals, road position and the way the front tyres are pointing all give indications of what a car is about to do. For example a car approaching a mini roundabout from the opposite direction from you going ahead at the roundabout should not have any indicators on, will probably not slow down a lot, and the front wheels will be straight, so with that in mind you should be ready to proceed once that car is in the middle of the roundabout, and has blocked any traffic that might come across from the right. This skill takes practise, so don't be worried if you don't get it right at the first few attempts, the aim is to be able to do it safely during the UK driving test, so keep working on it.

If you are approaching a CLOSED mini roundabout, where you can't see what is coming from the right, then treat it like a T junction, slow down enough (make sure you also select the right gear) so you can check what is coming from the right before deciding if it is safe to go or not (Look Assess Decide Act).

It is not possible for me to go through all the scenarios you might come across, but the most important thing is spot the roundabout, approach with the right speed to allow you to decide if you can go or not, always aiming for a gap in traffic if possible.

Finally whenever you are a passenger in a car, practice these decision making skills, and see if you do the same thing as who ever was driving, and don't be afraid to ask why they choose to go when they did (if it was done safely, and did not force another vehicle to slow down for them).

I will deal with major roundabouts in my next post.

Driving test tip: You do not need to indicate when leaving mini roundabouts, as there is not enough time to steer and signal at the same time, so concentrate on controlling the car, as the driving examiner will give you a driving errorif you lose control while trying to use indicators coming off the junction.

DSA Examiner Driving Test Routes

As an instructor over the years I have seen some very good drivers get tripped up at some tricky places on some of the routes by examiners in the NW London area, so I have made these tutorial videos to cover these situations.

Each video covers what I have found out to the toughest route, and has additional tips on other places or things that you should be aware as a driving test candidate. These are offered as complimentary preparation materials to your lessons or private practice sessions.

Hendon Driving Test Routes Video 2015

£4.99 Buy Now

Independent Driving On the Test.
Theory Test Changes
Driving Test Changes.

Mill Hill Driving Test Route Video

£4.99 Buy Now

Borehamwood Test Centre WD6 Route Videos

Learner Drivers Do Not Know More Than Instructors!

Why is it that some learner drivers think they know more than their driving instructors who is trying to help them pass the driving test with advice and tips from their many years of experience?

Today I gave a driving lesson to a mature student who hadn't seen me for about 2 weeks. At the end of their previous lesson I had asked them to buy a DVSA Official Book to help with some of the things they were struggling on, and prepare for the topics to be covering next (I don't do this for everyone, but thought this would helpful for this individual's case). The first thing I asked before we began today was 'have you bought that book I recommended' to which they replied 'No, I've been busy preparing for a professional exam, so haven't had the chance'.

Now that would have been a fair point if not for the fact that the next thing they said was 'I'd like to see if I could book a driving test for October', this coming from someone who last had a test about 2 years ago, had only had 4 lessons with me, and was no where near the DVSA driving test standard!

Many provisional licence holders just think they can try their luck on the test, and if they get a nice examiner, they will scrape through. It doesn't work that way (yes you will hear the odd example of people being lucky), all examiners are looking for a particular standard of driving, and unless you are able to show that standard on the test day, you WILL NOT pass, but more importantly if you mange to scrape through and are not a safe driver, you could be involved in a nasty incident!.

I'm very aware that people might not have a lot of money to waste on driving lessons, so I usually give advise and tips that would help them to maximise what they gain during each lesson(an example if this blog), but it seems the some students are not bothered to put in the required extra work in order to save money on driving lessons. I have lost count of the number of times I tell them to read the highway code in between lessons to increase their chances of passing especially because they keep forgetting what road markings mean, or rules regarding junctions or meeting situations!

Getting a copy of the The Official Driving Manual is another piece of advice that falls on deaf ears and people wonder why the examiner fails them for what they think is a simple mistake!

I can only give you advice, it is up to you to take it, put in the effort and not compare yourself to a friend who might be on an ego trip and tell you lies about how they only took 10 lessons to pass the driving test. Even if that is true, it doesn't mean you will be able to do the same! Here is some useful advice again, even if you have passed your theory test, continue to read your books in between driving lessons, and follow any advise your instructor gives you regarding increasing your chances of passing the Driving test 1st time.

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