21 tips for learner drivers

Getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time can be very daunting – and you can get penalty points on your provisional licence before you’ve even passed your test!
So how can you maximise your chances of staying safe, avoiding motoring convictions, and passing your test first time?
We’ve put together a list of 21 tips for learners to get your driving career off to a smooth, safe start.
If you do make a mistake and acquire a conviction for a motoring offence, the team at Insurance Factory won’t judge you. We’ll simply help you find convicted driver insurance to get back safely on the roads.
Are you ready for our 21 top tips for learner drivers? Let’s go!
  1. Stay safe by resisting peer pressure

Learning to drive is hugely exciting. You’re likely to compare notes with your classmates and friends, with a bit of (hopefully healthy) competition to see who can be the first to tear up the L-plates.
But one of the key mistakes that young people make with driving is to give in to peer pressure. It prompts you to act against your better judgement: speeding, drinking, or using mobile phones while behind the wheel.
So resist peer pressure, drive sensibly, don’t get disqualified, and keep yourself and others safe. We hate to say it, but listen to your parents and driving instructor – they really do have your best interests at heart!
Once you’ve passed your test, you and your parents could sign the Safe Driving Agreement from road safety charity RoSPA. It could help you stick to your guns the next time your mates put you under pressure.
  1. Get ready by applying for a licence from aged 15

Did you know that you can apply for a provisional driving licence from the age of 15 years and nine months?
However, it only becomes valid when you turn 16 – and then only for mopeds or light quad bikes. The exception is if you are disabled and in receipt of the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), in which case you can start learning to drive a car.
For other youngsters, you’ll have to wait until you turn 17 to begin learning to drive a car. But your provisional licence is valid until you’re 70 (you’ll need to renew it every 10 years) so there’s no harm in applying as early as possible.
What could be a more exciting way to celebrate your 17th birthday than with your very first driving lesson?
  1. There’s no excuse for no insurance

Recent research has revealed that more than 14,600 provisional licence holders were prosecuted for being uninsured in 2020 – up 16% on 2018. That may be due to the lockdown ban on tests and lessons.
While it’s certainly been a tough couple of years for learner drivers, the police and the courts won’t take kindly to this as an excuse. You risk a fine and points on your licence as a minimum – before you’ve even passed your test.
And you’re then likely to need convicted driver insurance to get you back on the road.
So if a friend or relative offers to take you out for a practice run in their car, check you’re covered by their insurance policy or take out your own.
  1. Keep focused by getting your eyes tested

Picture the scene: you’ve passed your theory test, you’ve got dozens of hours of driving practice under your belt, you turn up to the driving test centre… and fail the simple check to read a number plate.
According to the DVLA, fewer than half of all motorists are aware of the essential eyesight requirement, which is to read a number plate from 20 metres away.
So check you can do this easily (with glasses or contact lenses if you wear them): that distance is around five car lengths, or the width of eight parking bays.
Even better, get your eyesight tested at an opticians well before your driving test. That’s one less thing to worry about on the day.
  1. Budget for around 45 hours of professional tuition

According to the DVSA, it takes an average of 45 hours of professional tuition to pass your driving test.
Costs vary depending on where you live, and whether you buy lessons in bulk. But on average, an hour-long lesson will cost around £25-30.
Yes, it’s a considerable amount – and that’s before the cost of buying, insuring, maintaining and running your own vehicle. But consider it as an investment in your future.
A good driving instructor will be patient, calm, and experienced. He or she will have a dual control car, so will be able to override your early driving mistakes and keep you and other road users safe while you learn.
  1. Aim for at least 22 hours’ practice with family and friends

Learning with a professional instructor in a dual control vehicle is great – but pricey. So you can cut the costs by adding on a few practice runs with family and friends: the DVSA says that on average, 22 hours are required.

Anybody over the age of 21 who has had a full driving licence for three years (from the UK, the EU, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein) can supervise a learner driver. They need to be licensed and insured to drive the vehicle you’re practising in, and cannot take you onto the motorway.
Before taking the family car out for a practice run with your mum or dad, it’s best to wait until you’ve mastered the basics in a dual control vehicle and can do an emergency stop.
Consider fitting an interior rear-view mirror on the passenger side so that your supervisor can see what’s happening on the road behind you.
And do check that you’re covered by their vehicle insurance, or take out your own learner driver policy on their car. Remember: failure to do so can lead to consequences for the supervisor and for you, and could even result in you needing to get convicted driver insurance in future.
  1. Learn at the pace that’s right for you

The above points state the average amount of hours’ tuition and practice you’ll need but there’s no shame in taking longer than that.
For many youngsters, there’s a race to be the first in their peer group to pass their test. Turning 17 (or 16 in certain circumstances) is like firing a starting gun!
However, no matter how eager you are for the independence that a full driving licence brings, you need to take the long view. If you’re a nervous driver, or struggling to master a particular manoeuvre, keep practising until you’re confident. Better to delay your test than to rush into it.
Remember – driving is a lifelong skill, so it pays to get a good, robust basis for your motoring career.
  1. Record your private practice

A good driving instructor will want to know about the practice driving you’re doing. So it’s a good idea to keep a record and show it to your instructor at every lesson.
You can download a private practice record form from the government website. This allows you to record the progress you’re making in driving in the dark, on different types of roads (like dual carriageways), and in difficult weather conditions. It also covers route planning and navigation.
It’s a great starting point for a discussion with your instructor about what you’re finding difficult, and where you should focus future sessions.
  1. Get a black box fitted

Did you know your insurance can help you become a better driver? By fitting a black box, you’ll go on learning long after you pass your test.
Black box or telematics technology monitors your driving, analysing aspects such as how smoothly you brake and take corners, how fast you drive, and how often you travel after dark. The technology connects to an app, which you can use to get feedback on your driving style and tips for improvement.
All this data is used to assess how safe a driver you are, and price your insurance policy accordingly. While it’s ideal for learners, it’s also a great way to drive down the cost of convicted driver insurance: it demonstrates to providers that your conviction was a one-off, or that you’ve learned from your mistake.
  1. Don’t underestimate the theory test

You probably already know that there are multiple elements to the UK driving test, including a theory test.
Your parents might tell you that the theory test is a doddle. But be warned! They took their tests 20 or 30 years ago or more, and it’s become much harder to pass since then.
The test is in two parts. There’s a multiple choice test based on the Highway Code, and you need to get a whopping 86% to pass. Then there’s a video-based hazard perception test, for which you’ll need to get 43 marks out of a possible 75.
You’ll be given your mark at the test centre. If it’s a pass, you’ve then got two years in which to take your practical driving test. Good luck!
  1. Learn the basic car checks

Another new-ish element to the driving test is the “show me, tell me” safety checks. These were introduced in 2003, so your parents may not have had to take them.
During your practical test, you’ll be asked two questions about basic car safety, like “Tell me how you’d check your brakes are working” and “When it’s safe to do so, show me how to operate the horn”.
The examiner will pick one “tell me” question from a list of 14, and one “show me” from a list of seven. So it’s simple to learn them all well in advance of your test.
It’s never too early to start carrying out a range of basic car safety checks, too. It’s a great idea to learn how to check your tyre pressure and condition, brakes, screenwash, oil, wipers and lights.
With these skills, you’ll be able to keep your vehicle roadworthy, and reduce the risk of an accident. If you slip up and commit a motoring offence, contact the Insurance Factory to arrange convicted driver insurance.
  1. Build up confidence by planning your routes

Accident prevention charity RoSPA is full of wise advice to keep you and other road users safe. One top tip for learner drivers from them is to plan your routes carefully, particularly in the early stages of learning to drive.
So you can begin by planning a short route that avoids narrow streets, busy roundabouts, or dual carriageways. Gradually introduce longer routes that incorporate some of those tricky elements. Later on, try driving after dark or in poor weather.
If you combine this with a telematics system (see above), you can get feedback on how well you drove. Use this to plan your next route. 
  1. Learn to identify hazards

If only everyone on the roads took RoSPA’s safe driving advice! Sadly, this is not the case, and you’ll need to be prepared for that.
You need to keep an eye out for what’s happening ahead that could result in an accident if you’re not careful. A parked car signalling to move off might do so without waiting for a gap in the traffic, a pedestrian could step into the road without looking for oncoming vehicles, or a van could pull out into the road in front of you.
By staying alert to other people’s less-than-perfect road use, you help keep everyone safe.
  1. Mirror-signal-manoeuvre is your mantra

If there’s one thing you must never forget, it’s this: mirror-signal-manoeuvre. It may sound simplistic, but it’s absolutely vital for helping you to avoid nasty accidents.
Forgetting this safety essential is a recipe for disaster. You’ll change lanes, pull out into traffic, or turn at junctions without alerting other road users – and you’re likely to be held responsible for any resulting accident. That means a fine and points on your licence and potentially convicted driver insurance.
So repeat this mantra to yourself a hundred times a day. Think it while you brush your teeth. Write it on your steering wheel if necessary.
  1. Switch off your mobile

These days, there are a lot of distractions for young drivers – not least your mates messaging to ask how your lessons are going!
While you’re in charge of a car, holding or using a mobile phone is illegal. Yes, even if you’re stopped at traffic lights.
The penalty is likely to be six points on your licence and a £200 fine. Any points on a provisional licence will be carried over to your full licence once you’ve passed your test, unless they have expired.
That’s not a great way to start your driving career, and also means you might have to take out insurance for convicted drivers to find affordable cover.
So switch off your device, or at least put it on Do Not Disturb. Save the driving seat selfie for when you’re back at home on the drive.
  1. Keep a clear head by staying off drugs and alcohol

This one’s obvious: don’t drink or take drugs and drive. You could face a hefty fine, points on your licence, a driving ban, or even jail.
While you were probably already aware of that, there might be a few things you don’t know about drink and drug driving laws.

First of all, the laws cover not just driving, but being “in charge” of a vehicle – which could include just sitting in it with the keys.
Second, the drink-driving limit is lower in Scotland and most of Europe than in the rest of the UK, so take care if crossing the border.
And finally, if you drink a fair amount one evening, you might still be over the limit the next day. Take care, and stay off the booze if you plan to drive the next morning.
If you do end up being banned for drink-driving, contact us at Insurance Factory for a quote for convicted driver insurance once you’re allowed back on the roads.
  1. Avoid speeding tickets by giving yourself extra time

If you’re a responsible driver, you won’t set out to break speed limits. But it’s easy to go over when you’re under pressure.
When planning your day, always allow more time than you think you’ll need to get somewhere. That way, if you get held up, you won’t be tempted to put your foot on the gas to avoid being late.
Also, many learner drivers are unaware of speed limits. If this applies to you, try using a sat nav, as these tell you when you’re over the speed limit.
Remember also the street light rule: as a general guide, if there are street lights but no signs, then the default speed limit is 30mph. Look out for 20mph zones too near schools and built-up areas.

  1. Focus on the road ahead

This one sounds obvious – but, as you get more confident with your driving, you’ll discover that mistakes creep in.
It’s easy to get distracted by friends in the back seat, or just lost in your thoughts. You might also get aggravated by other motorists, without realising the effect your emotions are having on your own driving behaviour.
So no matter what anyone else is doing, or how much your sat nav is playing up, you need to stay calm and focused behind the wheel. Failure to do so could result in a crash that injures you or other people, followed by a motoring conviction. Insurance Factory can help you find convicted driver insurance.
  1. Give other road users space

A car is a dangerous machine. It’s vital that you remember that no matter how nervous you are at the wheel, you’re actually far safer than many others on the roads.
The revised Highway Code sets new guidance on overtaking: allow 1.5 metres when overtaking a cyclist at a low speed, and two metres for pedestrians or horses in the road. At higher speeds, give more space.
You should also keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you, so you have time to react and brake if necessary. The two-second rule is a good guide: watch the car in front of you pass a particular point like a road sign, and make sure it is at least two seconds before your vehicle passes that same point.

20.Make allowances for the weather

Driving in poor weather requires a whole new skill set.
Wet roads increase the time it takes to stop, so the two-second rule becomes the four-second rule. Poor visibility should also prompt you to slow down.
In winter, you’ll need to allow time to clear ice and snow from your windscreen before you set off on your journey. Remember that spray from other vehicles can reduce your view of the road, too. 
On icy roads, drive as smoothly as possible to reduce the risk of skidding. It’s best for learner drivers to avoid such conditions.

21. Consider the Pass Plus scheme

So you’ve passed your driving test, thrown away your L-plates, and are eager to go on a road trip – congratulations!
But don’t get too excited just yet. Remember that if you accrue six penalty points or more within two years of passing your test, your licence will be revoked. You’ll have to apply for a new provisional licence, and retake your tests.
Instead, think about how you can improve your driving. Pass Plus is a practical training course that can be taken by any driver, but is particularly aimed at those in the first year after getting their full licence. It requires at least six hours of tuition from a professional instructor.
It’s a great way to build on your skills, and ensure your driving career is a long and safe one.

Get a quote from Insurance Factory today

At Insurance Factory, we love to help learner drivers start their motoring careers. If you do make errors that result in a conviction for a motoring offence, we can arrange convicted driver insurance to help you get back behind the wheel.
We’ve got more than 20 years’ experience in helping motorists with a range of endorsements and convictions find policies to suit their needs.
Contact us today for a quote.