Are you ready to drive? Passing your test and beyond
Learning to drive is one of the most exciting chapters in anyone's lifetime. It's a real rite of passage, a landmark life stage, a sign of really 'growing up'. Being able to drive can open up a whole new world of independence and freedom.
But are you really ready to drive? Here are a few of the issues you'll need to be aware of - in readiness for passing your driving test and beyond that, a potential lifetime on the road.
The traditional driving test is changing
That's right - you may have read the news that changes are coming to the driving test. So, if you're about to start lessons, or are already in the middle of some, be aware that from December 4 this year the format is slightly different. There are four changes. In summary, the independent part of the test will double in length to 20 minutes; drivers will be asked to follow instructions from sat nav; the dreaded three-point turn manoeuvre is being phased out; and you'll be asked to answer a vehicle safety question while driving. The DVSA says it is making these changes to 'make sure that training and the driving test reduce the number of young people being killed in collisions.'
Passing the test is just the start
Hearing that, 'Congratulations, you've passed' comment from your instructor is a brilliant moment, as is tearing off those L-plates when you get home. But passing your driving test is just the start of your motoring adventures. From here on in, you'll be driving without a professional instructor sitting beside you, telling you what to do and guiding you through everything. Driving solo for the first time can be a surreal experience, and quite intimidating at first until you get used to it. Driving with other passengers is a different experience. As most younger drivers will testify, no sooner have they passed their test than their group of friends are all super-keen to blag lifts. Don't be surprised to have a car full most of the time. And this comes with a whole new set of distractions...
Behind the wheel, you're in charge
Driving is a huge responsibility and when you're behind the wheel, you're in charge. Your car - your rules. As a young driver it's easy to get distracted by friends asking for the music to be cranked up, or to drive faster, or messing about with mobile phones. As a driver, your focus has to be on the road, 100% of the time. The passengers in your car are under your care - if that's a responsibility you're not prepared to handle yet, you're not ready to drive. Lifehacker's list of how to become a better driver is a great reference point - and ditching the distractions ranks high on that list.
Build up confidence
The first few months after passing your test can be crucial; this is time to build up your confidence on the road and while it's easy to stick to safe routes that you know, do try to broaden your horizons. Experiment with longer journeys - spend an hour on a Sunday driving to somewhere new, without the pressure of time, just to extend your experience. Drive on the motorway, too. You don't want to be one of those drivers who, 20 years on, still won't drive on the motorway!
Driving is expensive
Be aware that becoming a motorist is not cheap - driving is expensive and so finances might dictate that even after you've passed your test, you can't immediately hit the road. You might have access to a car by sharing a family vehicle but you'll obviously want your own. Buying a car is the big expense (but also the fun part) and there is a useful advice guide here which helps with finding the right car for your particular budget. But aside from buying a car it also costs to run a car - you'll need to insure your vehicle, fill it up with fuel, tax it, and meet annual MOT costs.
Maintenance and car care
If you're a qualified driver, you'll need a basic understanding of car maintenance. No-one will expect you to be a part-time mechanic but it's important you at least know your way around your car to keep it running efficiently. Basic maintenance tasks include checking tyre pressure, screenwash, oil and coolant levels, and the condition of the vehicle's wiper blades. Checking these things regularly will help to keep your vehicle in a roadworthy condition, and you safe.
There's a lot to think about, isn't there? Your focus might now be on learning to drive and passing your test but the bottom line is that the hard work really starts once you're qualified.
You will also need to pay for :-
Vehicle Excise Duty (Road Tax)
MOT if your vehicle is more than 3 years old