It’s been a really tough 12 months for learner drivers across Britain. Driving lessons and tests have been suspended and restarted more times than we can count. This has resulted in last minute cancellations, significant delays and lots of confusion. Basically, everything that you don’t want thrown at you when you’re trying to acquire an important life skill!
Now that it looks like lessons and tests will be back up and running very soon (and hopefully for good!), we wanted to make sure learners of all experience levels know what to expect when they hit the road. Learning to drive after lockdown will no doubt be a little different from the norm, after all.
Learner drivers can roughly be split into 4 categories, which you will see below. Find which one you belong to and check out our advice on how to kickstart your journey to earning a licence in the best possible way!
When are tests and lessons restarting?
Before we delve into our different types of learner, let’s just quickly make sure you know exactly when lessons and tests are restarting in your area. The table below details the restart dates announced for England, Scotland and Wales.
|Driving lessons||Theory tests||Practical tests|
|ENGLAND||Monday, April 12th||Monday, April 12th||Thursday, April 22nd|
|WALES||Monday, April 12th||Monday, April 12th||Thursday, April 22nd|
|SCOTLAND||Monday, April 26th*||Monday, April 26th*||Thursday, May 6th*|
* Please note that all dates relating to Scotland are yet to be confirmed.
What’s your learner driver status?
You’re a complete beginner
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has motivated a lot of people to want to learn to drive. Lockdown really brought home how useful it is to have a driving licence, huh? Along with the freedom of movement a car provides, it also means you can keep yourself safe by avoiding the crowds on public transport. With some semblance of normality beginning to return, now is a great time to start learning to drive!
What you do need to take into account is the fact that a higher than average number of people will be looking to organise lessons and book tests. This is because of the significant delays imposed on learners over the past 12 months. While we’re obviously pretty biased, it really does make sense to take an intensive approach to learning to drive. Whether you go with a PassMeFast course or not, it doesn’t make sense to drag the learning process out with a traditional approach to lessons.
When you do start learning to drive, things may look a little different than you might expect, thanks to our uninvited friend who continues to show up: COVID-19. In Scotland, for instance, face coverings are mandatory for both the instructor and learner during lessons. This is also commonplace in England and Wales. You may also find that your instructor keeps the windows rolled down for lessons and spends extra time cleaning the car.
Find out what PassMeFast is doing to make driving lessons safe here.
You have some driving experience but it’s been a while
If you’re in this camp you’ve probably had quite a frustrating time. There’s nothing worse than embarking on a new challenge, investing your time and money into it, only to have the rug pulled out from under you. This is likely how it feels if you started to learn to drive just before restrictions were imposed. A lot of learner drivers are now in a position where they’re returning to driving after a break. And said break was out of their control.
Now is not the time to wallow in the frustration of it all, though! There’s already been enough of that. Let’s talk about how you’re going to get everything kickstarted again. In an ideal world you’ll take a two-pronged approach of professional tuition supplemented by practice lessons with a friend or family member. Obviously, these days you can only do the latter if someone in your bubble is able to supervise learners. For a little refresher on the rules, they must be:
- Over the age of 21
- Someone who has held a licence for at least 3 years
- Qualified to drive the type of vehicle you are learning in
As for how many hours it’ll take for you to get test-ready, that all depends on how much previous experience you have and how much of it you still remember! Some of you may be able to get away with a long refresher course—PassMeFast’s go up to 15 hours. For others, it’s probably wise to go for intermediate options, which are usually between 20 and 30 hours. The main thing is to get back in the driver’s seat as soon as possible!
You were theory test-ready
We only use the past tense here because chances are your theory test was cancelled and now it’s been quite a while since you could reel off facts about The Highway Code and correctly identify all of the various traffic signs. On the plus side, you’ve had plenty of time to stay on top of your theory knowledge. Technically there’s been nothing stopping you from studying. Then again, this hasn’t been an easy time for anyone’s mental health. It’s totally fair, therefore, if you haven’t felt particularly motivated to revise for your theory test. That new banana bread recipe and the box set you’ve seen 100 times were far more appealing! We get it.
Now that test centres are just a few weeks from opening, though, we do implore you to get your head back in the game. If you can squeeze in time to dedicate to revision, try to get a test organised as soon as possible. Of course, if you already had a theory test booked that was cancelled, the DVSA should provide you with a new appointment. When you are notified about this can vary depending on test centre. Don’t fret if someone you know has been sent their new appointment but all you’ve heard is crickets—yours is coming!
Remember that the DVSA simply books you the next available appointment on their system. This could be at any time, so make sure you’re ready to take the test at the drop of a hat! You can use our list of revision resources to refresh your memory of all things driving theory.
You were practical test-ready
A lot of our empathy goes out to you guys who managed to work your way all the way up to test standard, only to have your driving dreams temporarily dashed by the DVSA. It definitely feels unfair. As we said to the theory test-ready folks, though, don’t dwell on the fact that you could have passed by now if it wasn’t for the pandemic. Be excited that things are opening up and focus on the future!
Firstly, take note of the fact that there is a deliberate gap of time between lessons restarting and practical tests restarting. While a number of factors account for this, the DVSA is hinting that you should not go from zero to taking the test. Lockdown restrictions meant that most learners could not practice their driving skills. As a result, while you might have been test-ready a few months ago, you’re probably a little rusty right now.
What we’re really saying is: do some driving before you head to your practical! Depending on how confident you’re feeling, this could be as simple as a few practice drives supervised by someone you know. If you really want to ensure you can pass on the big day, though, book some lessons with a professional driving instructor. Scenarios like this are exactly what refresher courses are designed for.
Though you might be feeling reluctant to splash any more cash, why would you want to risk delaying this process any longer? If you fail, the wait lists for new tests is pretty lengthy because lots of people are looking to make up for lost time. Don’t waste the precious practical appointment that you have—get yourself as ready as you can be!
Don’t yet have a driving test appointment, or looking to bring the one that you have forward a bit? Invest in a fast-tracked practical test to speed things up.
Tips for all learner drivers
Keep track of the restrictions in place in your area You don’t want to put yourself through any further delays, so ensure you are following all necessary rules when taking lessons and tests.
Exercise patience We appreciate that you’re sick of waiting to get on the road, but trust that driving schools and government bodies are doing the best they can to give all learners a chance to earn their licence.
Expect your instructor to be busy Instructors have gone from having no work to being in very high demand, so respect their time and prepare to be flexible when it comes to booking lessons.
Not all work happens behind the wheel When you’re not out driving you can still be working towards your goal of passing the test. Revise your theory knowledge or practice the ‘show me, tell me’ questions.
Be prepared for last minute changes If we’ve learnt anything from the past year it’s that plans can always change! We’re all hoping that lockdown will end for good come June, but anything can happen between now and then. Be optimistic but realistic.
PassMeFast would like to wish a massive good luck to all learner drivers hitting the road over the next few months!
For more top tips and the latest driving news, visit the PassMeFast blog.