Learning to drive (rolling?)

So I think I might want to learnt to drive, but there are a few obstacles in my way:

I grew up in a car-less household (parents never drove, being in London we always got by without) so I know nothing and I mean NOTHING about cars. Couldn’t tell you what anything in a car does aside from the steering wheel. Will a typical driving instructor be patient enough with me to put with this at the beginning or am I likely to need some pre-lessons reading up? If the latter, does anyone have any tips?

I’m quite a nervous person in general, even cycling on quiet London roads I get a bit jittery. Has anyone had experience of overcoming this?

Feel free to post your own anecdotes of learning to drive. Meanwhile I’m hoping my life won’t turn into this episode of Pond Life

I reckon you might even be better off having never driven before - no preconceptions about how it should be done.

I learned to drive so long ago I didn’t even need to do the theory test. Just had to memorise some braking distances and road signs.

Imagining Tom Petty singing this thread.

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Any half-decent driving instructor will be happy to teach you the very basics. Mine did with me (and I didn’t listen, and I still know nothing despite having driven for 11 years)

I was very, very nervous when I started, and the first time I drove at 30mph+ felt like I was going at light-speed, convinced I was gonna die. You’ll be grand. Just tell the instructor that you’re nervous and you’ll be fine. I somehow passed first time and the only accident I’ve had wasn’t my fault, and I was jittery as fuck for my first 10 lessons.

I’m nervous af and thought for a long while when I was learning that it just wasn’t for me. That I’d never get over it. The good news: you will. The bad news: you’ll probably suck at first and it’ll take a long while getting over it.

Most instructors will be happy taking as long over the basics as you need. It’s more money for them if it takes a while, innit. If not you can always switch instructors.

You can get good books on both the theory and the practical tests - I’d recommend getting both and reading them before you start learning. If you know someone who has a car, maybe ask if you can sit in the driver’s seat to familiarise yourself with where all the controls are beforehand, too.

I took three gos to pass my test, managing to fail for being too cautious and also for being too aggressive. In the thirty years since then I have owned precisely one car (that had no reverse gear) for a few months, and the last time I drove anything was six years ago in a different hemisphere.

Total waste of time, money and effort.

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my brother’s took him through what everything did in such excruciating detail that he zoned out after 5 minutes. the lesson was at least 45 minutes of solid talking

mine basically just put me in the driver’s seat immediately. he might have spent a minute or two describing which was the accelerator and how to indicate etc, but it was not a lenghty thing

I was very nervous about learning to drive, I just think I hated the idea of being responsible for a huge piece of metal, and the kind of disaster that could unfold if I fucked up. But my dad forced me to learn on the basis that it would be very useful, and he was right.

I didn’t really understand the basics, and particularly the concept of the clutch / gears, but that’s what an instructor is for. My first lesson, he drove us to an old airstrip and just spent the first hour (after learning about setting up the seat / mirrors etc) turning the car on, putting it in gear and pulling away. Then you build up from that.

I don’t drive often and still get a bit of nerves before I have to do it (even though I spent a few years driving every day), but you soon get back into it, thinking every other twat on the road is a useless wanker instead of you.

When I was learning to drive other people I knew went through BSM. They did an option of 2 ‘lessons’ before you went on the road which was sitting in their car simulator at their offices which allowed you to get familiar with really basic stuff in cars like the pedals, seatbelts and even opening/closing doors. Not sure if they still do that but it’s decent if you’re starting from a place of total unfamiliarity with cars.

(BSM do tend to be more expensive per hour per lesson though, or at least they used to be)

Oh yes, one other thing: if you are learning to drive to the point that you pass your test, remember that you’ll have reached the minimum threshold of competence, and that you’ll still be getting better at driving for a long time after this point. If you can, try and drive fairly regularly after you pass your test for at least the first six months - so many people (especially those who live in London) pass their rest and then never drive again, and then have a fear of doing so later in life.


I’m quite old and only passed my test pretty recently, aged maybe 36. I failed my test when I was 17, then moved to London soon after and just never really needed one. We decided to have a child and realised that, whilst not essential, it would prove to be super handy.

There’s no escaping the fact that it’s a total and utter ballache. Having lessons before work or at weekends, having to book a theory test and take a morning off work to do it, that weird hazard awareness test that I nearly failed… Such a relief to get it done as it’s expensive and a total time suck.

For the theory test - get the iPhone app. I did it every morning on the tube until I was getting 100% every time. The theory test is easy, but expensive so I really didn’t want to fail it.

For the practical test - try and get a slot during rush hour. I basically sat in traffic for mine and did an almost perfect test. My instructor couldn’t believe it. I remember the tester guy saying “I don’t understand why on earth people want to drive in this Godforsaken city” whilst sat at a standstill on the A24.

Driving in London - intimidating at first, worrying about holding everyone up etc, but then you realise most drivers are just as bad as you. Now I don’t really care. We also had an old car that I didn’t care about at all.

My wife also learned late and did her test in an automatic. Might be worth considering? I think the stats say it’s quicker to pass in one. We consequently bought an automatic and I don’t think I’d go back now. Haven’t driven a manual since my test thinking about it…

If you live in SW London area I can recommend a very good instructor. I had 3 instructors ( kept stopping and starting as I ran out of money) and he was by far the best, he managed to get me through.

Just learn automatic. Much easier and less stress. It’s like driving a bumper car (without the bumping)

Does anyone enjoy driving with gears any more? I had manual cars for years then got automatic a few years ago and its so much better


Yes - very hard to get out of the non-driver mindset. I would often need to head off somewhere and just make a beeline for the tube and then think “Oh hang on a minute, I have a car now”.

I’ll do anything to avoid getting public transport. Drive my car everywhere!

Don’t enjoy it but manual cars are cheaper to buy

Yeah. Would get bored and not know what to do with my left hand without a gear stick.

Definitely easier to learn automatic though

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How much cheaper are we talking?

Don’t really know what manual and automatic mean :joy: