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Isabel Johnson profile

Isabel Johnson

September 15, 2020

Learning to drive 6 min read

Hello, my name is Isabel and I’m turning 17 in a couple of months. I’ll be blogging about my whole experience of getting on the road, from now through to passing my test, so feel free to follow my journey if you’re in the same boat (or will be soon)!

Whilst everyone thinks driving is something for when you turn 17, there is still so much you can do to prepare beforehand. For example; this week I’m applying for my provisional licence, my mum has been nagging me to begin studying for my theory test, and every car journey has now become education (I’ve heard “what does this sign mean?” way more times than I care to count!). We have all heard countless times from our teachers that we should do everything as soon as we get it and, as much as I hate to sound like that, it applies here too. Why wait? If you’re in the same boat as me you should definitely keep reading, hopefully it will help you in some way or another.

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What can I do to prepare to learn to drive before turning 17?

Get your provisional licence

One thing you should definitely do before turning 17 is get your provisional licence, which is something that – as I mentioned earlier – I will be doing at some point this week. However, keep in mind that if you want a car licence, this is something that should only be done a couple of months before you turn 17, something that I didn’t realise until a few months ago when I tried to get mine too early and almost ended up with a motorcycle provisional licence which isn’t quite as helpful, in my case at least. This one is very easy to do – just head to the gov website and fill out the questions. I found it really easy to complete (when I tried the first time!). If you’ve got a biometric passport, you won’t need to provide a photo, but if not, you’ll need to send a passport photo. Marmalade have written a handy blog about applying for your provisional driving licence so any questions you may have are over there! 

Study for your theory test

Studying and revising for your theory test is another big thing to do at 16 as it means you can take your theory test practically as soon as you turn 17 (but probably not literally because your birthday should be fun!). This should relieve some of the stress when learning the actual driving part (and I’m hoping it will give me some more confidence). I actually haven’t started this either, but my mum is in the process of getting the highway code and I’ll download a few apps soon to help me with it. This, of course, takes a little more effort and thought but if you start doing at the right time it’s nothing to worry about either. I’m going to get my family to test me as I think that’s a very casual way to make yourself less worried about the actual test when it comes, and I’ll probably take some mock tests online. I think it goes without saying, there’s no way you can pass your driving test without the theory side, so you may as well get it out of the way as soon as you can!

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Get some off road practice

Another more fun thing you can do before 17 is taking a junior track day which gives you some experience away from the stress of the road or learning but lets you get somewhat used to being in the driving seat of a car. This was something I didn’t really think about doing until I was 16, but you can actually do most of them from the age of 10! I was excited to give a junior track day a go, however, by the time I got round to it, the pandemic struck just at the wrong time for me so by this point it’s a bit too close to my birthday for it to be helpful, as soon enough I’ll be practising it for real.

Learn from your parents

As I mentioned in the introduction, all car rides have now become mini theory lessons for me (which I’m sure my sister is enjoying). As much as I rolled my eyes and thought ‘why?’ and that I would rather listen to my music and ignore everyone, I think this will definitely end up being helpful. Even sitting here now I can recall the signs my mum pointed out and what they mean, and we’ve talked about some of the hazards to watch out for. Although this won’t get you a pass on your theory test alone, it’s making me feel a lot more confident and letting me do preparation while not really thinking about it. All you need to do is ask your parents (or whoever is your current taxi driver) to point one or two things out per journey and then ask you later on in the journey or the day, it’s that easy! This’ll help when you turn 17 as, if you’re like me and find things easier to remember when you’ve approached them hands on, it may just make some of the theory questions a little easier to recall.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my tips – whether you’re counting down the days to get behind the wheel, or if you’re like me, and you folks are nagging you to get through your test so they can stop playing taxi – good luck!

Isabel Johnson profile

By Isabel Johnson

'Hey! I'm Isabel, and I'm coming up to my 17th birthday very soon. I'm in Sixth Form studying Maths, English Language, Biology and Chemistry, so I'm very excited to learn to drive and document it here as a break from all that very academic work. My mum has been nagging me to learn to drive for a year at this point so maybe that's where the anticipation comes from.'  See more posts by Isabel

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