I was mad about driving from the second I got out of the car after my first lesson. Normally everyone wants to learn to drive for the freedom of being able to go wherever you want when you have a car, but for me, that was only partly the reason. You see, I didn’t have my own car, so the freedom I had to drive places was limited, but what I loved about driving so much from the beginning was the responsibility that came with it.
Therefore, with this newfound responsibility that I wanted to learn more about, I wanted to have more time in the driving seat, which meant more driving lessons. As I’m sure everyone who is reading this is aware, driving lessons don’t come cheap. But you know what does: your parents.
So there I was, sitting in the car with my dad fastened into the passenger seat, ready for my first private practice lesson. He’d driven us to the big empty car park just down the street, so to begin with all I did was get to grips with starting the car, not stalling and managing to shift between first and second gear. It doesn’t sound like much but when I had my next paid-for lesson, both my instructor and I could tell it had made a difference.
I continued to go out on little lessons with my mum and dad as I learnt to drive, and can undoubtedly say it helped me to no end. Having one formal lesson a week is great, but when you’re only driving for an hour or two every seven days, it takes a lot longer to master the little things. Going out with my parents meant I upped this hour or two a week to around five, and was thrown into dealing with more real life driving situations.
For example, when I got picked up from college I would often drive home, therefore being able to experience rush hour when there would be a lot of stopping and starting between traffic lights. When my instructor told me that we’d be doing reversing around a corner in the next lesson, I went home and practised reversing into the drive with my mum (which was around a corner). And when I struggled with hill starts during one of my actual lessons, my mum took me out again afterwards and talked me through her process for hill starts, and she waited with me until I’d figured it out for myself.
Of course, I’ve got to admit that learning to drive with my parents didn’t always go exactly to plan. In fact one private practice lesson I vividly recall with my dad did end up with me trying to pull away from a set of traffic lights – which were on a hill – in third gear, stalling three times and then finally zooming off into the distance. Albeit only to stop on the side of the road as soon as I’d put adequate distance between us and the car behind so I could get out and shout at my dad for being so unhelpful.
But honestly, jokes aside, having extra driving lessons with my parents did help me to get the hang of driving much quicker. It gave me a lot more confidence behind the wheel – okay, when my dad wasn’t laughing at me for stalling at least – and it made me feel more comfortable with the mechanics of the car too. So things like turning on your full beam headlights, washing your back windscreen, and checking the tyre pressure were all things I knew how to do when I started driving alone, and are often points that are just loosely brushed over in actual lessons, or irrelevant if your lessons take place in a car you won’t be driving in once you’ve passed.
So if you’re learning to drive, or are about to start learning soon, my advice would be to seriously consider taking the car out a few times with your parents as well. You’ll be surprised how much difference a few extra hours behind the wheel makes, especially in your first few weeks of driving.
Oh and my three top tips about private practice lessons:
- Realise that your parent is feeling under pressure and nervous too, and try not to start a screaming match with them if things go wrong.
- Remember that each car is different, so you can’t take your reference points in one car as being law in another – this could end very badly.
- Respect what your parent is trying to teach you, as much as we hate to admit it, they’ve been driving since the Dark Ages, so what they say could actually come in useful if you listen to it.