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Learning to Drive – Pleasures, Perils and Employment

EmployabilityGraduate JobsSkills

With the possible exception of leaving home, learning to drive is probably the biggest gain in independence that most people experience. Yet as any learner driver knows only too well, the pleasures and opportunities that learning to drive brings are tempered by the anxieties and pressures of mastering this critical life skill. Hopefully, the following advice should help you through this anxious time whilst also demonstrating how driving can increase your chances of employment.

Planning Ahead

The first shock that most would-be learner drivers experience is the price of the lessons. In my experience, driving lessons vary from between twenty to thirty pounds an hour. If you are fortunate enough to be blessed with generous parents, then you may be able to persuade them to help you out a bit. However, as most people (myself included) don’t have such a valuable commodity, then the most likely outcome is that you will have to pay for the lessons yourself. While this might seem a cause for concern, financial pressure can be eased by a little forward planning. In the UK, you are legally able to start driving lessons once you turn seventeen. Therefore, it makes sense to find part-time employment at least a year in advance and to continue to work whilst your lessons are in progress. This should ensure that you don’t end up in the embarrassing situation of having to suspend your driving whilst you earn the money to pay for some more. In my own experience, balancing work and lessons can sometimes be a shade tricky. At one stage, I found myself taking on more work in order to pay for more lessons but this then clashed with when my instructor was available. I eventually sorted the mess out but take note from my mistake and find out when your instructor is available before you arrange extra shifts.

The Learning Process

Once you begin to spend your hard-earned cash on lessons, you will naturally be keen to pass as soon as possible, however, it is important to restrain yourself.. The irritating cliché that 'you learn from your mistakes’ is undoubtedly true but actually making the mistakes is seldom very pleasant. Therefore, remember that making errors during the learning process is perfectly normal. No driving instructor will expect you to know how to drive; that is why you’ve employed them to teach you! Also, keep in mind that it takes different people different lengths of time to learn new skills. If it seems to take you longer to learn than your friends, this is not something to be ashamed of. The main thing is that you learn how to drive safely. Once you get more experienced, you will encounter more complicated situations and the more public any mistake you might make will be. However, do not beat yourself up about this. As a learner, I used to feel physically crushed after making even simple mistakes yet I now realise that this was a complete waste of time and energy; learner drivers have been making exactly the same mistakes for generations so if you haven’t stalled at a roundabout or been heckled by an impatient fellow motorist, they frankly you haven’t been trying hard enough! Obviously though, most learners are eager to pass as quickly as possible, if only because lessons are so expensive. It sounds obvious but the quickest way to learn is to take as many lessons as possible. This means a shorter gap between each lesson, making learning easier. I also found YouTube a helpful resource as there are many videos posted by driving instructors that allow you to quickly recap key skills. See here for some of the most helpful.

Test Days

Currently in the UK, there are two tests to pass before you can obtain a full driving license. The first is the theory test, a combination of fifty questions on the highway code and fourteen video clips to test your hazard awareness. The other test is practical, which tests your ordinary driving ability and your skill at manoeuvring the car. You are only able to take your practical once you have successfully passed your theory. In my experience, the secret to passing both tests is practice and stress control. Take the stories of people scraping through the theory test with no practice at all with a good pinch of salt. It might be possible with the highway code test as a good deal of it is just common sense but mastering the correct technique for the hazard perception definitely requires practice. Thankfully, there are many free websites that allow you to practice the hazard perception test as well as the multiple choice questions. There are also a range of theory test mobile apps available which are well worth investing in, as you can practice on the go and work through each category. Constant practice is also helpful for passing the practical test, particularly in mastering your manoeuvres. If you find a particular manoeuvre challenging, practice it over and over again until you can perform it without thinking. In my case, the manoeuvre in question was parallel parking. It took me roughly four hours of solid practice to master it, almost driving myself and my instructor mad in the process. However, it was more than worth it as I was able to perform the manoeuvre during the stress of the test without making a mistake. Just like any exam, controlling your nerves is essential to success in both tests. Useful advice given to me by my own instructor was to exercise before the start of the pre-test lesson. His theory was that this releases all the tension inside your body which helps you to relax. I was sceptical but decided that it was worth a try. The effects were magical, all my fears seemed to dissolve and it was a definite contributary factor to me passing my test. I warmly recommend it to anyone who gets nervous before exams. If you do fail, then it is important to see things in perspective. While it is certainly disappointing, you are certainly not alone. According to DVSA research conducted between 2010 – 2011, 50.4% of men and 53.7% of women fail their driving test the first time around. You also shouldn’t consider yourself stupid for failing. My mother has a degree from Cambridge, yet it took her five attempts to pass her driving test. Nor does it necessarily mean you are a bad driver; people fail their tests for all kinds of strange reasons. A friend of mine failed through no fault of his own after his driving test was abandoned after it started to snow. Therefore, don’t despair; try and remain cheerful and focus on passing it next time.

Employment Opportunities

Once you’ve finally passed, a whole range of opportunities present themselves. Having your own transport gives you far greater freedom, not only to enjoy yourself but also in the world of employment. Being able to drive is not necessarily a job winning skill; after all, most people in Britain are able to drive. However, it is a useful accoutrement to have in your arsenal and certainly makes you more employable. Being able to drive means that you do not have to rely on the vagaries of public transport so you can be more flexible with the hours you work. It also allows you to seek a job further afield which means that you have more choice and more chance of obtaining work that you enjoy. Of course, getting a job is not dependent on driving; some people never learn to drive and have no difficulty in finding work. However, in my experience being able to drive makes you more attractive to potential employers which certainly makes it a skill worth acquiring. 

To Conclude

In conclusion, learning to drive is most definitely a skill worth having. Despite the expense of lessons, it increases both your personal freedom and your freedom to find employment. With so much to gain, this can make learning to drive a stressful experience. Therefore, bear in mind that everyone makes mistakes and that you are not unusual or useless. The secret is to keep practising, keep smiling and to remember that you will get there in the end. 
GRB Blog Author and Student - Jonathan B

Jonathan Burton is currently studying History at the University of Kent. For relaxation, he enjoys birdwatching, rifle shooting and motorbikes.

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