5 ways road-tripping can help you learn to drive
It’s true what they say, you never truly learn to drive until you’re out on the road independently, and without your instructor to guide you. But this doesn’t mean you can’t get ahead while you’re still sporting your “L” plates.
As long as you have a friend or family member in the passenger seat (make sure he or she is over 21 and has had a full driver’s license for at least three years to avoid breaking the law), car insurance (you can get specialist learner insurance) and your plates, you’re good to drive as far and for as long you please. It is these excursions external to your dual-controlled lessons where you’ll learn the true unpredictable nature of the roads, and where you’ll actually pick up real-world driving experience.
Driving and the skills that you will need to drive will vary from road to road. For example, driving on a dual-carriageway is very different to manoeuvring around your local town centre. Experiencing different roads during the early stages of driving is sure to make you a more confident driver, as well as helpful preparation for possible driving scenarios you may encounter once you’ve passed your test.
Queue the road trip. Typically associated in the movies with freedom and rite-of-passage, the road trip involves driving for long periods of time, often incorporating a trip in which you stop and enjoy many towns and cities. But how can embarking on a road trip help you out when it comes to the world of learner driving?
- You’ll experience many types of road
Hopping from towns and cities means you’ll be likely to experience a huge variety of roads, from fast carriageways to clear country bends and, to everyone’s despair, traffic-ridden city centres. Try to make your route as varied as possible in order to get the best out of the experience. Stop off at service stations regularly to practice using slip roads, and, of course, to enjoy the ultimate new-driver experience – the fast food drive-through.
Plan routes with bridges, large roundabouts, city junctions and one-way streets; the more types of road you experience now, the less stress you’ll feel when tackling any on your test. In 2018, learner drivers will be able to experience motorway driving in a dual control car with an instructor, and until recently, learner drivers couldn’t take to motorways at all. By getting to grips with dual-carriageways, however, you’ll be in the best position possible for when the time eventually comes.
- There’s no pressure
Practicing your driving on the way to either your or your passenger’s work or appointment, may not be the best way to gain experience, especially when there’s the added stress of ensuring you’re on time. You’re likely to stall your car if you are rushing, and if such an event persistently reoccurs, your confidence could take a knock. A road trip on the other hand requires no rush or stress because there is nowhere you have to be. Road trips are all about adventure, so really, it doesn’t matter where you end up. In fact, getting lost is a great excuse to practice using a satnav for your practical test – just make sure you’ve got plenty of snacks and water.
- You’ll get to practice driving long distances
It’s likely that your lessons may only involve an hour or so of driving, and even with longer lessons, a proportion of the time is spent practicing manoeuvres or discussing your progress with an instructor. In the real world, there may be occasions where you are required to drive for longer periods of time, and further distances. Learning to keep focus for the duration of longer trips is a great skill to have. Legally, you should be taking a break of at least 30 minutes after five and a half hours of continuous driving – although during your early days of being behind the wheel, it is perhaps worth taking breaks more regularly.
- Your instructor won’t be there
This may be a good or a bad thing depending on how much of a fan you are of your instructor, but for many, having an instructor beside you during lessons acts as a comfort blanket. They have dual pedal control, and all the knowledge on the topic of driving you could need. But this won’t be the case post-test. At this stage, you are unable to drive on your own, but driving with someone else in the passenger seat rather than your instructor will help in bringing what you’ve learned in lessons into the real world.
Friends and family will always be grateful for lifts, and once you’ve done a number of shorter trips, you are sure to build up your confidence driving without having your instructor next to you.
- It’s fun!
You may not always look forward to your weekly lessons, but driving can be fun. The sense of freedom gained is truly exciting, with endless travel possibilities. By making practicing into a trip or small holiday you’ll begin to associate driving with these feelings of independence, and be much more ambitious when it comes to passing. This is not to say you won’t experience hiccups along the way. You’ll have to concentrate, you may well stall a couple of times, but if you can manage to stay calm, having completed the trip your confidence will be sky high.
So, book some B&Bs, explore the cities you’ve always wanted to visit, put your tunes on the radio and enjoy the ride.