With the pass rate for the driving theory test plummeting from 70 per cent to 50 per cent over the last six years and less than half of drivers passing their practical tests first time around, it’s a challenging time to be a learner.

However, don’t think that this is because the tests are too tough; many provisional licence holders no doubt lack the experience needed to be a safe driver – and they don’t have a licence or a car to practice with.

There are, though, a number of ways to build up driving experience – before and after the test – to make sure you’re fully equipped for dealing with whatever hazards may appear on the road.

Before your test

Young driver training courses– Driving may not be ‘just like learning to ride a bike’, but the longer you’ve had to get to grips behind the wheel, the more competent a driver you should be.

A number of organisations hold driving courses for those as young as 11, with practical lessons held on special circuits away from public roads, where young drivers can learn how to use the clutch, change gears and manouevre the car – all without having to worry about other traffic.

Driving lesson packages– Many learners book lessons sporadically and spend half of their time trying to regain the skills they developed in their previous lesson.

Saving up and booking a batch of lessons in a short time frame can be a good way to build up your driving skills quickly. Be aware though, that if you pass your test and don’t drive for a year afterwards that you’re unlikely to have retained all the skills you developed to pass your test.

Intensive driving courses– Following on from this, many courses have popped up, giving learners the chance to spend a whole week behind the wheel. Many of these also include accommodation, so you can properly immerse yourself in picking up new skills on the road.

After your test

Just because you’ve passed your test doesn’t mean that you’re ready for any eventuality on the roads – this is where experience comes in.

The driving test brings motorists up to a minimum standard, but many learners don’t get the chance to practice driving at night, in heavy rain and no learner driver is even allowed to venture onto the motorway.

Several driving courses, however, do provide extra teaching so that motorists are fully prepared for life behind the wheel.

Pass Plus– This practical driving course takes at least six hours and should give drivers the skills they need to drive more safely. As an added bonus some car insurers will also give you a discount for doing the Pass Plus test.

Pass Plus gives drivers experience in driving around town and on rural roads. It also covers night driving and motoring in all weathers. Dual carriageways also feature in the course as does motorway driving – something completely absent from standard driving lessons.

IAM advanced driving course– Where the Pass Plus course builds on basic skills developed in driving lessons, the IAM course puts much greater emphasis on awareness of the road and vehicles around you, promoting skills taught to police drivers.

The course doesn’t fully revolve around safety but builds drivers’ confidence and covers a variety of roads including city and country routes and dual carriageways and motorways. Examiners assess drivers for their ability to read the road and deal with hazards as they emerge.

Ford Driving Skills for Life– Ford’s driving course caters for new drivers aged between 17 and 24. Unlike other courses which show motorists how to drive safely, this Ford scheme educates drivers of the risks of driving unsafely.

Those taking part in the course, which takes place off public roads, get to try a specially developed “drink-driving suit” which has weighted pads to restrict movement, headphones to distort hearing and “beer goggles” which mimic the dangers of driving while under the influence. Another activity shows just how distracting using a mobile phone can be for motorists.

These free courses take place on September 18-20 in Glasgow, October 4-5 in Warwickshire and October 7-9 in Surrey for new drivers aged 17 to 24.

Picture: Warren Goldswain

Chris Lloyd


September 12, 2014

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