“Your Uber bills are getting out of control!!!!!!” shouted the Husband. It was the moment I was dreading for almost seven years. It was finally time to get my UK drivers license. My fellow AGs did not help with the support. One friend described the experience as “worse that childbirth” and most everyone told me that it took five or six times before they passed the practical test. Regardless, it was time to start the process, and the whole thing is just that- A PROCESS. So, if you’re new to the whole notion of driving in Londontown, here’s what you have to get on the road.
(1) Apply for your provisional license: https://www.gov.uk/apply-first-provisional-driving-licence
Your provisional is basically like a learners permit and gives you the opportunity to practice with an instructor or licensed driver. You can’t take lessons without it. The pain about this process for us AGs is that in order to get one you have to send in your passport or Residents Permit, which can be scary if you have impending travel scheduled. Thankfully, mine came back really quickly (within two weeks), but I could have been lucky. Give yourself enough time to get your documents back.
(2) Book and pass your theory test: https://www.gov.uk/book-theory-test
The Theory test is a combination of practical questions and several ridiculous video game like hazard perception simulations. The best way to practice for the theory test, I think, is to download one of the many apps to your phone. Simply search DVSA theory test in the app store, there are a lot of them, and you can easily find one that you like. You can take practice tests and make sure you are answering enough questions correctly in order to pass.
If you want to practice the simulation bit, then you can order the CD (which is available when you book the test) however, I found the CD very different that the actual test. The Hazard Perception part asks you to identify hazards by clicking the mouse. For example, if you see a bicycle pulling out from a side road, click the mouse. My biggest tip for the Hazard Perception part is to NOT OVER click. If you do so it will automatically kick you out of that simulation and you’ll lose points.
(3) Practice makes perfect
Most of us have been driving in the US for a number of years. Like everyone else, I got my license when I was 16, and thought the test here would, as a result of driving for 15+ years, be easy. It’s not. They make the test very difficult and trust me when I say, they are out to fail you. If you’ve never dealt with major roundabouts before, then now is the time to practice them before you get behind the wheel with an examiner, so I’d recommend booking in some driving lessons in Stockport or where ever you happen to be. It’s also time to learn how to parallel park if you haven’t mastered the skill. As Cher Horowitz once said, “Why would I need to learn to park in LA, everywhere has valet!” #Truth.
I would love to be able to recommend my driving instructor but he actually was not my cup of tea, and I only stuck with him because I wanted the process done and dusted. If you have a friend or a spouse with a car, practice with them. The more comfortable you are on the road, the better.
(4) Get An Eye Test
In the UK, you must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away. For most people, this can be a challenge, so you’re going to need glasses if you can’t manage it. Contact lenses are also acceptable, or you might want to get laser eye surgery if you can afford it. This site, https://sharpe-vision.com/pricing/, might be a good place to start looking if you’re weighing up the idea of getting laser surgery. Forgetting your glasses at your practical test will mean you’re automatically disqualified from even getting in the test car, so either make sure you have them with you, or get your eyes fixed!
(5) Book your practical driving test: https://www.gov.uk/book-driving-test
Unless you’re super lucky, you’re probably not going to be able to secure a test for a few weeks. If you need a test sooner, I recommend visiting this website, http://driving-test-cancellations-4all.co.uk, and for £18 you can find an earlier test from the cancellation list. You can take the test in your own car if you have one, but you need a special mirror. It’s best to book a driving instructor to take you.
I failed my first try by making a silly mistake on, you guessed it, a roundabout, but passed my second time. The more I practiced the better I felt behind the wheel. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes you a couple tries, like I said, I think they are out to fail everyone, but eventually you’ll get your pass letter, and then you can put this whole horrific process behind you!
(6) Get your car and insurance
Once you’ve passed your test you will feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders! However, you won’t be able to drive your car until you get it insured. Whilst learning to drive you will have had learner’s insurance, whether it be with your driving instructor or whoever was teaching you, but now it’s time to upgrade and get full coverage insurance. You can get instant vehicle insurance quotes very easily and it’s good to get a few quotes and compare them. The cost of insurance will vary from person to person for the year due to a range of factors like age, how old the car is, and where it’s going to be parked at night. You can learn more about these factors here: https://www.insurancequotes.com/auto.
If you don’t already have a car and are looking for one, I would recommend getting an older model or second-hand car. You might not have it for long before upgrading and it’s always best to start off in a car you’re not too bothered about getting scratches or marks on (just in case).