Learning to drive is a real milestone in becoming an adult – and many young adults simply cannot wait to get behind the wheel and experience the feeling of freedom and independence that learning to drive and passing your driving test brings.
Often the first driving instructor a learner driver encounters is either mum or dad or another family member who offers to sit in the passenger seat while the learner takes their first tentative steps behind the wheel.
Adding a learner driver to your car insurance can really bump up the premiums, but is important to make sure you are adequately insured before allowing a learner driver behind the wheel of your car, as the risk of road traffic accidents (RTAs) is much greater for learner drivers than other road users.
Learning to drive – lessons or tuition from friends and relatives?
Paying for driving lessons can be expensive and many young adults hope that their parents will pay for these – and even perhaps their first car – once they are 17 years’ old. If your parents are unable to afford to pay for your lessons or a first car, taking shortcuts to driving – such as practising in a friend’s car off-road or buying a really cheap second-hand car and asking a friend or relative to teach you – can end in tragedy if you are not careful.
Make sure anyone you ask for free tuition is old enough, suitably experienced and does not hold convictions for dangerous driving or driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. It is also illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to give driving instruction – and they must have held a full driving licence for three years for the type of car (ie automatic or manual) they are giving driving instruction in.
It is also illegal to charge for accompanying a learner driver unless they are a qualified professional driving instructor, however. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) has produced a ROSPA guide for learner drivers packed with useful information about learning to drive, from getting your provisional licence to how to handle lessons and taking your test.
Once you have passed your test, you may like to take a young drivers’ advanced driving course such as the Pass Plus course, which will give you extra lessons with a qualified instructor. The British School of Motoring (BSM) is the UK’s leading driving school and offers advice online on getting started even before you have the L plates fixed to the family car. The BSM Guide to Getting Started as a learn driver includes advice on a range of topics from getting your eyesight tested to the legal side of learning to drive.
Buying a car – advice for learner drivers
Taking a part-time job or putting money aside from your existing employment might actually be the best way to learn how to drive – but if you want to buy a car in the hope of learning to drive, take advice from the AA or RAC on how to spot cars which might previously have been in accidents – or could even turn out to be more than one written-off vehicle welded together into a potentially lethal new car.
Again, older relatives with experience of buying cars can be the person to turn to when you buy your first car – but a reputable local garage may also be able to give any prospective car purchase a clean bill of health before you buy, so ask around for advice and beware the fast-talking sales patter on a car lot, which could result in you handing over your hard earned cash or signing up to a credit agreement for a vehicle which really should not be on the road at all.
Remember that car sales professionals are there to sell cars.
Once you are behind the wheel of a car as a learner driver or a newly qualified driver, however, it is important not to take any risks – including not offering to drive without having passed your driving test, as well as not driving with passengers until you are sufficiently experienced and competent once you have passed your test.
Road Traffic Accidents – essential advice for learner drivers
Road traffic accidents are now the main reason behind personal injury claims in the UK and among British holidaymakers abroad.
Statistics about RTAs in the UK are collected by the police when they attend car accidents.
More people were injured than killed in car accidents in 2012, it appears, compared with 2011, as deaths in road accidents were down by 6% according to the provisional figures (1,790 deaths in road accidents in 2012, compared with 1,901 in 2011).
Overall, however, in 2012 there was a 1% increase in the number of those killed and/or seriously injured in road accidents (24,870 in 2012 compared with 24,610 in 2011) – and so learning how to drive correctly is vital to helping reduce the number of accidents on the roads and lives wrecked as a result of serious injuries in RTAs.
Once you have passed your test, it may be tempting to show off a little – or you may feel peer pressure to take your turn as the driver for the evening so your friends can drink, even if you are not experienced at night driving. You may even feel tempted to drink and drive – or drive while under the influence of drugs, as once you are intoxicated it can be hard to judge how much your reactions are impaired.
However, from the first sip of alcohol you take – or from the first puff on a joint – your reaction times behind the wheel will be affected; as well as your ability to make judgements about the road ahead and the actions of other road users, who may also be driving under the influence or drink or drug driving. It may not be until after you come round from an accident that you realise what has happened.
Too many young adults regain consciousness after a serious road accident to find that they or a friend have suffered serious injuries or traumatic brain injuries which result in a life changing and permanent disability.
All these warnings and statistics can seem a real downer compared with the excitement of learning to drive or passing your driving test – and you may think a road traffic accident will not happen to you.
Under the laws of England & Wales, if you cause a death through DUI you face a 14-year prison sentence, an unlimited fine and an obligatory 2-year driving ban – and just attempting to drive while unfit through drink or drugs carries a 6-month prison sentence, a £5,000 fine and an obligatory driving ban of 1-3 years.
More information about driving offences, handling being stopped by the police and driving offence sentences is available at the Home Office website – and information about speeding offences and penalty points on your licence (called endorsements) is also available from the government’s website GOV.UK. The Driving Standards Agency also has information about booking your theory driving test and practical driving test.
Learning to drive is one of the most important things you will learn in your lifetime – if done well, it can also be one of the most enjoyable, so take your time to learn how to drive and make sure you drive safely for your own sake and others.
Author Bio: Leo Wyatt is a freelance writer & journalist who graduated from Birmingham University. Leo has worked for several newspapers in the midlands but now spends most of his time writing articles for companies, websites and businesses on a freelance basis, primarily The Brain Injury Experts. Leo also has particular interests in cars, bikes, politics, law and health & safety.
Written for http://www.braininjuryexperts.co.uk